Say Media Product Design Process

Role: Design Lead

Design Process

Spend more than five minutes with me discussing just about anything, and you'll find that I'm a deep process nerd. I'm always trying to optimize the way I do everything. From product design to folding bed sheets, I've got a system. Here's how I handle our Product Design workflow at Say Media.

Step One: Explore

I use these charts to help organize each project on the outset. First, we've got to do some type of research. I choose between the options above (and sometimes add other tasks from Open Design Kit or Ideo's Design Kit if we need to push things further). The list above represents my most used tasks. Product Design and Product Management typically collaborate on this step.

Sometimes the result of exploration is... more exploration! That's ok. That means we didn't waste time mocking up or even building the wrong solution. Having flexibility in the early stages of design is crucial.

Step Two: Define

Once we've explored the problem space, it's time to define what it is we're trying to solve. I will typically choose 1-3 of the above activities to get started on the definition of this problem. Product Design, Product Management and Engineers all collaborate in this phase. 

Step Three: Make

This is the step of the design process that folks typically think of as being 'real design work'. In my opinion, there's lots that needs to happen before we put pen to paper or mouse to Sketch. 

This is definitely the most labor-intensive and heads-down part of the project cycle for a designer. Since our team is small, we often manage multiple projects at once. However, only one of those projects should be in the Make phase at any given time. Designers will often work alone during this phase, but show work to each other and to Product Managers and Engineers daily for feedback. We have a really open and collaborative culture which is super helpful in this phase.

Step Four: Validate

At this phase, we have a very good idea around what the product or feature is and what it might looks like. Now is the time to take the assets created in the Make phase and put them to the test! Either we push changes live to a certain number of sites and gather data, or we can have users walk through mocks or prototypes to test our assumptions. This phase is important to making sure we move forward with a data-informed design. This phase typically pairs a Designer and Engineer to work together, while consulting with Product along the way.

Step Five: Build and Release

This phase is mainly handled by Engineers with support from Product and Design. We are there to make sure all assets are buttoned up, edge cases handled, and to help make decisions when something unforeseen happens. Design also wraps up all asset and document delivery so that we have an archive of decisions made and any external documents or assets are prepared.

Product Design Team Planning Meeting

Every two weeks, we have a Design planning meeting. The agenda is as follows:

Meeting Participants:

  • Product Design
  • Product Management
  • Optional: Director of Engineering, Chief Product Officer

Meeting Length/Frequency:

  • 2 hours, every 2 weeks

Meeting Agenda:

  • ~15 min: Product will share any developments in upcoming business priorities and roadmap with Design.
  • ~15 min: Product will present any new projects that need to be triaged for the Design queue.
  • ~30 min: Design will present the results of the last two weeks worth of work. Including any assets, documentation, testing or experiments.
  • ~30 min:Design will then receive feedback on work from Product regarding project requirements and next steps.
  • ~30 min: We will then collectively plan Design work/projects for the next two week sprint, continuing on any unfinished projects from the weeks before and adding in new tasks from the backlog.

Potential Action Items:

  • Design to write up all tickets associated with any new or continuing project, with deadlines assigned, additional resources included. Eg: one ticket for affinity diagramming, one ticket for research, one ticket for mocks, etc. Also explain the goals of what we are trying to achieve with each ticket.
  • Tickets should carefully outline the problem space. Avoid prescriptive solutions in main body of ticket, proposed solutions and ideas could be outlined in comments or related fields.
  • Assign someone to set up all necessary meetings/collaborative activities involved with a project, or for the next 2 weeks.
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