Stop building to a big reveal – work in the open



In my experience developers are usually pretty good at sharing their work and working collaboratively. Designers, not so much. Their instinct tends to be to hide their work until it's 'ready', which can create a lack of trust with clients and team members.

If you work in the web you hear a lot about the idea of being open source—sharing code so the community can work on it together and strengthen it. There are also approaches like pair programming and baking code reviews into the dev process that mean work is constantly improved by the team.

Now it's a bit harder to be open source with UX design but it is very possible to work collaboratively and openly as a designer.

There are a couple of key methods I use when working with clients that I find help me be an evidence-based designer and a better person to work with (they are also applicable if you are working within a team).

Sharing research

In the research phase I assess web analytics, run user tests, do competitor analysis, and record it all on a Google Doc. I share the link to this early and allow my clients to see me fill it up as I go.

There are a few big benefits to this:

Open design

At the design phase I then share my work with clients over InVision or Marvel, starting with the earliest outline user flows and wireframes. These tools allow them to comment in context on the exact things they wish to question.

Sharing early means they can help me course-correct if they think I'm heading in the wrong direction. It helps us have important conversations about features or layouts before they become too baked in.

I then work in rounds of designs (usually three), iterating on the previous ones until we get to a stage where we have something we can turn into a quick prototype or hand over to developers.

The whole thing feels lightweight and avoids the dreaded 'big reveal', which I used to do with clients years ago. That's the fearful moment where you present something you'd worked on for weeks, and then hold your breath hoping they go for it.

Summary

These approaches helps me be an evidence-based designer by both making it clear what conclusions I'm drawing from research evidence, and by using a method of evidence that is often overlooked: client knowledge.

It works just as well when working on internal projects with stakeholders as your clients and on cross-discipline teams, where you want to help other team members easily see your process.

Trust your clients or stakeholders, and give them credit that they understand their business. Involve them and use their knowledge; you'll get great results and save yourself lots of meetings and reworking.

Last updated on 16 August 2017

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