I was getting kind of upset.
Chopping and piling pixels like a mad Alaskan bush man preparing for the winter. For the longest time, I thought that was expected of me.
Then a bunch of personal stuff happened alongside a massive burnout from having a full-time job and freelancing on the side.
After almost a year of being a stay-at-home dad and dealing with my health, I made a decision to venture out on my own. It quickly became apparent that what I used to do as a part-time freelancer will not work as a sustainable one-man business.
I was determined. I said to myself, “I’m not taking another full-time job before my bank account is at 0€ and I’ve tried everything that I know may work”.
That led to me consuming mountains of free online content in search of the formula for what I’m aiming to achieve, but the lack of structure was slowing down the process. Watching and reading random material was somewhat helpful, but I was still lacking the clarity of the big picture.
Cue the ebook, and online classes.
In the beginning I studied things related to the overall freelance business — attracting and getting clients, communication, pricing — all the fun stuff. The latest and most expensive class I bought was a Design Sprint Masterclass conducted by the agency AJ&Smarts. I was sold very quickly. The agency itself transitioned from a traditional model to specializing in running and teaching Design Sprints.
“I want to do that!” I said to myself, solve big, high-level problems with a set one-week process and fixed price. This will solve all of my current problems: positioning, marketing, selling myself, projects dragging in time and the endless pixel chopping.”
I watched the class. It turned out not exactly what I was expecting. The material is great, super-detailed, and the people presenting have a super fun, friendly vibe. The class almost made me drop the whole solo business idea and apply for a job there.
But I digress.
…I attempted to solve with this class was to improve my current design process and make it a clear, step-by-step method that addresses problems early and delivers predictable results.
I wanted to keep doing product designs down to the detail not just the facilitation of the problem-solving process. At least for now.
No sticky notes, colored stickers, kitchen timers, a bowl of nuts or music playlists. I work remotely with most of my clients and most often they are solo founders or small two- to three-person core teams.
Let’s break it down…
My old process
- Gathering requirements
- Wireframe prototype
- Validating prototype with stakeholders
- Refine prototype
- The initial one-page visual design concept
- Validating visual design with stakeholders
- Refine visual design
- Apply the approved visual design to all screen
- Create UI kit with additional bits and pieces
- Hi-Fi prototype
- Dev support
Problems with this process
- Not making it clear from the start that I have a process, and clients taking control of the design process
- Lack of structure in gathering requirements
- Clients not being invested in validating the wireframe prototype. It’s too abstract for them. This leads to rework the Hi-Fi prototype — that is much more time consuming
- Lack of transparency on how I make decisions for the visual design
- Lack of structured user-testing
- Lack of documentation why some design decisions were made
Design Sprint process
- Define problems & goals
- Position problems on journey map
- Look for inspiration
- Concept sketching
- Deliver the results
Pros of this process:
- The client knows from the beginning he is participating in a process not run by him
- The client is hands-on, involved in almost the entire process
- The process itself feels more fair and democratic
- It’s a fixed amount of time
- The focus is on solving a business problem, not on the deliverables
- It looks like to achieve optimal results you need to have your own facilities and setup
- Too many props needed
- Pushes participants out of their comfort zone
- No delivering full product design
What can I steal from the Design Sprint to improve my own design process?
- When onboarding new clients introduce your process
- Make it clear the clients have hands-on work to do
- Use the set structure of defining problems and goals without any voting
- Note & Vote method is a great tool I can use with bigger teams
- Start with pen & paper sketching present in Invision Freehands to collect notes and encourage participation
- Sketch flow maps instead of wireframe prototype
- Skip wireframing is possible
- Present a mood board with visual directions and include the client in the process
- User testing. I design for B2B and the enterprise sector, so my best option here is to ask the client to provide access to potential users — or educate the client on how to do it.
- Add context notes to my prototype similar to the storyboard
- Follow up with clients after implementation gathers feedback and suggest an iteration sprint if needed.
Note to self: I need to learn more about how to create design systems. To make my visual design solutions more scalable
There could be an entire course created just for transitioning from a pixel delivery guy to a Design Sprint Wizard. It’s a big mind shift to switch from wearing a t-shirt with a logo to a cape, pointy hat, and a cane.
If I can figure out a way to drop all the props and make it work remotely or at least without using clunky whiteboard apps this can be magic.