23 1 / 2012
ukstartupguy-deactivated2012041 asked: I've spent the past few years working under a stone in corporate life where we didn't get to work with a designer at any stage for anything - UX or design. What tips and advice do you have for a startup developer looking to build products who hasn't worked closely with designers before. What is the best way to approach such a working relationship to ensure you both remain productive, especially when you might be in different timezones. Any tools, tips, must reads, do's etc.? Thanks.
Great question! This is a tough one because there is not really a straight answer.
Before I started working for myself I worked at a couple different technology companies. In any company or organization however it really helps to have someone in a leadership role who either IS in charge of or UNDERSTANDS the importance that a design driven product development process plays. Someone who understands that design and development are equally important.
“Design” and “UX” is one of those tricky fields also because anyone can claim this title. It can even be common to have people in these types of leadership roles that are not even really qualified to be there. In turn companies can mislead themselves into thinking that they have all their bases covered.
First and foremost and where there is sometimes a misperception - design and UX is a results driven profession. It takes into consideration all things that are important to the business and fosters them as part of the process. Design is not about making something look nice, it’s about making something highly usable, profitable, extensible and done so in an efficient manner that involves many stakeholders and users or customers in a collaborative fashion.
A lot of companies are still trying to get a grasp on why UX is important and how it can properly be done in their organization. This is why educating clients is a huge part of the UX profession. I always find it’s helpful to do a broad overview of the UX process with new clients and show specific case studies to help clients understand what it’s all about. The business of UX continues to have many meanings to many different people and making sure everyone has the same common understanding is always a good place to start.
To speak more specifically to your question though, I’ve always found that the best work comes from being able to collaborate with people one on one. This is obviously not always possible though and right now I’m working on projects with people in three different countries.
The first piece of advice I would give you is to find someone you really enjoy working with. For me personally, I like to work people who are really passionate, collaborative and who are good communicators. That last one is important, especially when you’re working with people remotely.
The second piece of advice I would offer is about staying motivated and making little bits of progress every day or week. Part of what will help you be successful in doing this is not biting off more than you can chew and setting realistic goals. It’s very easy to start a project, it’s very hard to finish it. Keep it simple and think “what can we design today that we can build this week.” Software projects can get so complex and when you have limited time this way of thinking will help you strip out everything that is unnecessary and focus on the core goals. It will also help you test something small, get feedback on it and iterate.
When working with developers, I always try to keep the design process a couple steps ahead of development. This will enable your small team to be able to have conversations about what you’re building before you develop it.
Find a designer that can work quickly and is willing to throw some ideas around before committing to something. I produce more work these days that I wouldn’t be proud to show the world, just for the sake of having some sort of visualization to look at and talk about as a group. You’ll have plenty of time to make it perfect later.
In regards to tools, I use Adium for chat and Basecamp for managing projects and as a replacement for email for projects. Campfire is also great if you have multiple team members and I also use Skype. I’m sure there are other great tools that get the job done.
There are many task apps on the market, some of which are shared by teams. Flow App is one of the latest: http://www.getflow.com. You have to find something that works for you and your team. Lastly I would recommend reading “Getting Real” by 37signals, which raises a lot of good points that you mind find helpful!