Building an effective design project lifecycle. Most useful tips for your success

Practical tips to help you prepare for your UI/UX design project and see it from the business strategy perspective

Dmitriy Riabovol      |       July 3, 2022

Why is this important?

The quality of input always affects the output and the final result. The same goes for web/mobile design and branding. Throughout the years of being at the forefront of creating innovative designs, the Outcrowd design agency team has gathered some meaningful insights into how one can prepare for a successful design idea implementation and how a digital design studio can assist in the best way possible.

These recommendations will help you in building a successful design project and allow you to avoid starting an over-budget and over-timeline burdensome venture.

Two main components of the design project

There is an important insight I would like to share with you first. You will achieve much better progress with your design project if you look at the design not just as a presentation tool, but as the product itself.

Also, during the preparation, you should divide all the factors and thus phases influencing the success of the project into two major groups: business planning/business development, and the design itself. Are you wondering why we prioritize business development in a design project (e.g., User flow, or UI/UX web/mobile design)? Let’s explore this concept further.

Project preparation

First, let’s overview the materials needed for the general UI/UX design project (which usually includes such deliverables as User flow; Web/mobile app UI/UX design; and Landing page design):

1. Preliminary research material;

2. List of the features to be implemented in the User flow;

3. List of the possible Blue Ocean features to direct the user’s attention to;

4. List of the competitors;

5. Design references speaking of the general direction.

As design is highly subjective, the designer’s vision is not always the same as that of the client. That’s why I recommend setting some borders within the vast space of creativity to ensure that the direction chosen after all the research efforts will remain within expectations.

Project lifecycle

Now, let’s look at a general scenario of the stages for a full UI/UX design project:

The purpose of research

Before the official start of any commercial project, there is (or should be) a stage dedicated to prior research and ideation of a possible approach to ensure the best long-term result. Usually, it comes not from the design perspective, but from the overall business standpoint. Call it a business plan, preliminary analysis, or whatever you want, but the fact is that a design project is in fact also an important part of the commercial strategy. Maybe even the most important one in the current conditions of the global tech market.

If your product doesn’t yet look legitimate or user-friendly, or even if it does not generate further motivation to use, it will barely catch the attention needed for growth. Thoughtful and targeted design assets are a powerful catalyst for the audience’s interest and attention. However, the result mostly depends on an approach built on the outcomes of the research phase and then shared with a designer to implement. This statement applies mostly to UI/UX design and User flow projects, but it can also be used to help with the branding as well.

Research tools

One of the most general recommendations for the research stage is to review as many sources of market information as possible before you formulate specific design project goals. Feel free to check such sources as Statista, TechCrunch, Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group, PwC Consulting, and OECD to get data about the market you plan to enter with your project or want to expand your business within. A useful lifehack: these consulting firms often publish free useful information about trends in tech. To find their publications quickly, use this search on Google “[topic] filetype:pdf”. Also, feel free to use such tools as Miro for brainstorms and ideation.

Things to know about the product features

The research stage aims to form two crucial product features: gathering user motivation and forming a unique selling proposition. Sometimes even in the form of Blue Ocean products. Let’s make this clear.

I think that every digital product should have in its structure (and UI/UX design) some specific elements to allow it to motivate user engagement internally (without the need for massive ads). They usually take shape during the initial research phase and grow further until the implementation.

Such features can include the “variable reward” to enable the element of surprise, thus stimulating further use, or have custom-targeted elements to satisfy a specific audience.

Using the Blue Ocean strategy to beat the competition

I think the Blue Ocean strategy is one of the important topics we should mention here in form of a brief explanation so that you could research it before the start of your project too. Blue Ocean is a concept of competitive behavior, introduced by famous authors Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne in their book of the same name. According to it, all markets can be divided into two groups: Red Ocean, where the competition is fierce and every player tries to present a slightly better version of their product or service; and Blue Ocean, when a company sees an untapped audience and presents a mix of existing services to it in a new form (or perhaps adding some new features), thus creating a new market niche.

The design stage and preparation for it

The next statement is all about the design strategy you want to be implemented by the designer or agency you plan to work with. Yes, sometimes it seems that this issue should solely rest on the shoulders of the designer as a professional in this particular field, as this makes sense after all.

However, the direction of the outcome can vary greatly from the one initially imagined (but not translated) by the client. By “translating” we mean a precise description of the goal of the [re]design in general, the major “dos” and “don’ts” to keep in mind.

I.e., you proceed with describing the possible features of your product, how it is going to motivate users, and also present your concept of the visuals. The designer is going to prepare standalone research on the design trend of competing companies, and your role here is to guide the direction.

Chatbot case study

Let me explain it with a simple example, based on a real project our team delivered recently. Imagine you are trying to build a chatbot builder tool to let users get their own free AI-powered “workers” (actually chatbots) for their business. You want to start the project with the web app design and then continue with marketing-related deliverables, such as the landing page.

You conduct market research and see that the majority of the global market competitors use a “functional” approach to place their products on the market. It means that they highlight the functionality first, and only then implement the motivational factor behind the possible use case of the product. To broaden your prospects of successful market entry, you decide to implement the “emotional” approach, thus first addressing such factors as FOMO (“fear of missing out”), desire to scale the business faster than the competitors (chatbots are used by companies to enhance their customer service processes), and generate additional savings and revenue.

As for the Design stage for such a project, you need to build the User Flow first (implementing all those features and possible user motivation mechanisms) and then create a UI/UX design of the web app based on it. As you can see, we do not start with the landing page in this example, and we actually recommend our clients with complicated SaaS projects do the same.

It is important to mention that this is a B2B2C sector. It means that our team (as a design agency in this example) intends to build such a well-made design that the product itself attracts the attention of other businesses. I see that this model is quite popular now, as more companies enter the market with their innovative products aimed at helping businesses of all sizes.

What if you do not want to do the research yourself?

If you feel that you want to engage more expertise than you possess to cover all the aspects of the design project, including research, I have some good news for you! A full-service innovative agency like Outcrowd can cover all the steps — from researching the market and implementing the Blue Ocean strategy, to actual design in the form of screens, or even development if you need it.

I am sure that your product idea deserves it :)

Final tips for success:

1. Think of the design as the cornerstone of the whole project, and not just a separate stage

2. Ask yourself: how is my product motivating its users; how can I implement the Blue Ocean strategy; what is the niche in the market I can enter that has demand yet the supply is weak?

3. You can delegate the design research to the designer, but make sure to prepare clear expectations in terms of the suggestions you see as appropriate, to steer creativity in the right direction.