As an engineer, learning about everything that goes into designing a product is a fascinating lesson for me. In the Interface Design Bootcamp at Smashing Conference, Aarron Walter walked through the steps he takes to go from idea to production.
His analogy to describe the process was the game of golf: start with strong, broad strokes, then use smaller strokes to get to the final point. The five steps he outlined, in increasing levels of granularity, were 1) research, 2) flow, 3) interaction, 4) personality and 5) aesthetics.
Before sitting down and drawing anything, it’s important to understand your customers’ problem — this means that research should always come first. Understanding what the “Job-to-be-Done” is allows you to focus on what users are trying to accomplish without bogging them down in details or assumptions. Research can be conducted in a number of ways and is the most important step in interface design to ensure you don’t end up spinning your wheels and building the wrong thing. Most often, this crucial first step is usually cut from the process.
Flow is the connection between what a user sees and what the user does. Thinking purely in terms of what actions they take allows for clear focus and helps eliminate distractions.
The interaction stage is ensuring that the design is easy to use and understand and is memorable — you must clarify the writing to keep it jargon-free.
Personality is the feel of the product. A useful exercise is to list out “we are this, but we are not that.” It solidifies the tone for the product and can help with understanding the emotional state of the users. For example, if you know your users will be stressed when using your product, your wording should focus on putting them at ease.
Aesthetics is the final step, but since this element is unique at every organization, Walter left that up to us.
Zooming out and following your product design through these phases helps to ensure you’re building something useful, intuitive and delightful for your users.