imason's User Experience team offer tips and insights, and sometimes share their frustrations, about Interaction Design, Usability, Information Architecture and gathering requirements.
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A while back I was asked to answer some questions on how to build a User Experience team. I'm always interested how other teams work, so I'm sharing this in hopes that people will share their experiences with what works and what doesn't. This is how we're working now...
What is the typical workflow for interactive design? Who provides the project requirements and how are those requirements typically communicated? Wireframes? Functional requirement document? Back of a napkin?
Our workflow has evolved over the years to best meet the needs of the client, designers and developers. What's been working well for us for quite a while now is:
How to coordinate workflow between designers and developers? Currently the architect provides wireframes to designers, designers provide comps to developers, developers create websites. This breaks a lot.
Our Interaction Designers are graphic designers who can code great HTML/CSS. So after they work out the comps and get approval from the client, they're also the ones who do the front-end coding which gets handed off to the developers. This is our ideal mode of working and the developers respond well to it. However, the ratio of Interaction Designer ("ID") to Developers on a project is usually 1:many, so the ID doesn't always get to do everything at the start of the project. But they're usually assigned to the project at approximately half-time during the Implementation period so that they can continue to help with the HTML/CSS coding and tweaks that need to be made again once the developers are done with their portion. The collaboration between the two groups continues to go very well — there's a mutual respect for each other's roles on the project.
What types of hires should I be looking for? How should I configure my team and what roles should be in place? Currently I have graphic designers, developers, and an information architect. Am I missing anything? Should I replace graphic design with "interactive designers"?
Tough question. The title "Information Architect" tends to mean different things at different places. Most commonly, I find that this person is a jack-of-all-trades (usability, interaction design, information architecture, front-end coding – maybe even copywriter). It sounds like you've been using them in the role of what we call Interaction Designer to create wireframes based on the requirements. I find that by having the person who does the graphic design also do the front-end coding we're always producing designs that can be implemented.
How to manage creatives? General management philosophy about how to manage and inspire designers.
I think the most important thing is to foster respect between your creative team and development teams. This takes a lot of teaching and the job is never really complete. Create dialogues that help both sides understand each other's perspectives and frustrations. Let them figure out how they can best work together. What's worked for us is to encourage everyone to look beyond the design of our web applications to the design of everyday things. We have an email alias, comprised of creative people and developers who often discuss the user experience of many aspects of the world and it's a great alias that exposes people to new ideas (good and bad). Your designers probably all have their favourite places/things (websites, books, blogs, art) for gathering inspiration but they'll also gain inspiration from the ideas of others. So making your design process more collaborative and iterative, when possible, will only benefit the final product. This blog post I wrote was inspired by working with developers for years, and hints at how we try to work together at imason.
So how do you work?