Category: UX advice / How I work

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 generally a better person to work with. I find they are essential if you are freelancing remotely, where it can be all too easy to hide, but these approaches also massively help if you are working within a team.

Share the research process

In the research phase I record everything I find on documents in the cloud: assessing web analytics, recording user tests, and running a competitor analysis. 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:

Design in the open

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. It means there’s no fearful moment where you present something you’d worked on for weeks, and then hold your breath hoping they go for it.

Summary: keep involving

These approaches helps me be an evidence-based designer by both making it clear what conclusions I’m drawing from research evidence, and by incorporating a method of evidence that is often overlooked: client knowledge and expertise. For extra bonus points with clients: stop, collaborate, and listen.

It works just as well when working on internal projects with stakeholders instead of clients, and on cross-discipline teams, where you want to help other team members easily follow 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 9 October 2019
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