When it comes to creating great software, there is no one perfect formula for uncovering the solution you’re looking for. But here at Red Cedar, we’ve come up with an outline of our eight step process to help guide you in understanding the path to your best thinking. While the complexity and exact execution of these steps can vary quite considerably, they provide great guidelines to help keep you moving in the right direction. It is important to remember that this process can be quite lengthy and may require a considerable amount of back and forth between the various steps, along with constant communication between the crafters, stakeholders, and target users. With that being said, grab your pen and paper, your sense of adventure, and let’s begin!
Step 1: Observe and Inquire
The first thing that needs to happen in the creation process is understanding what you’re working for. Whether you’re improving an existing idea or creating something entirely new, you need to have a clear understanding of any work or processes that will be happening in the realm of your production. This is a great time to talk to target users to uncover what they want and need by asking blue sky, or conceptual, open-ended questions to stimulate stream of consciousness conversation. You can also engage them in activities such as card sorting, and sketching, and eventually have target users participate in product testing.
Step 2: Reflection
Once you have built a foundation of understanding, it’s time to flesh out the first round of designs, and see if you’re on track from the client’s perspective. By presenting a rendition of your potential solution back to stakeholders, you can get an idea of your comprehension of both business needs and client desires. The transition between step one and two tends to be a time of checks and balances, often requiring crafters to modify concepts based on stakeholder and user feedback to find a zone of harmony, where business needs are met, clients are happy, and good design standards are used.
Step 3: Engage Development Team
After reaching a potential design solution that everyone is satisfied with, it’s time to consult the crafters behind the scenes. While some ideas might be great in theory, occasionally you may come across a concept that is not as efficient or effective as an alternative solution, or something that creates a technical issue. At this point, designers should have a comprehensive understanding of what is needed, and they should reflect these requirements to the developers. Once everyone is on the same page, the design and development teams can join forces to review preliminary designs, any areas of concern, and work together to identify practical solutions.
Step 4: Share Solutions
When an attainable, programmable design has been generated, it is time to share solutions once more with stakeholders and target users. Again, we present our design solution, this time with the consideration of technical requirements from the development team. The passage from step three to step four can potentially be another point of back and forth, as any changes that occurred between the first rendition of the design and the current adaptation may spark new challenges or concerns from stakeholders and users. This back and forth provides a great time to work out any kinks that may exist in the UI, challenges from the technical perspective, or even clarify and further develop business needs with the client.
Step 5: Design Approval
After the initial designs have been revised to consider the technical work that is necessary to produce the solution, and after said solution has been shown to stakeholders and target users once again, the stakeholders will decide that the design and it’s technical proposition meet the business needs, and they will approve the design. This step is considered a rather pivotal moment in not only design, but also the overall process, as it opens the floodgates for the creation of written specifications and development work, which are the remainder of the process.
Step 6: Document
Red Cedar business analysts review approved designs, business needs, and technical plans with designers to gain a broad understanding of the solution. Once they have this comprehensive understanding, analysts can begin to write up the detailed description of every aspect of the product, that is known as specifications. Specifications should include goals, requirements, design details, and dynamic behaviors, among other things. The specifications must be extremely precise, as they will be one of the main resources that developers rely on as they bring the project to life.
Step 7: Specification Approval
Once the specifications have been completed, it is time to bring them to the team of stakeholders for approval, much like what happened with the design solution in step five. Usually the transition to specification approval requires less back and forth than the progression of the design work. This is because the specification document echos the details and behind the scenes of the designs that have been previously approved by stakeholders.
Step 8: Craft
The final step is the actual creation and implementation of code by developers. The crafting stage is often the lengthiest of all, as developers not only need to ensure that the code meets all of the specifications, but they must also engage in troubleshooting, work out potential bugs, and prepare the product for internal and eventually external testing. After all aspects of the solution are in working order, meet the requirements of the specifications, and have gone through several rounds of testing, the solution is ready to be pushed to production and becomes a live product accessible to users.
Although the initial discovery and design process is complete after step eight, the work doesn’t stop there. Sometimes features are released one by one, or with time you may come up with a slight modification to one aspect of the initial solution that will provide a vast improvement. It’s important to keep up with stakeholders and target users to see how things are working, and prepare future updates or growth. Keeping these eight milestones in mind, and anticipating any possible variances in time and workload, you should be able to successfully and efficiently plan and execute your next great creative endeavor!