Measuring Design Efforts –  Unpacking the Process

Hello there! As I’ve journeyed through the world of design, I’ve often heard the refrain that measuring design work is a bit like trying to grasp at air with your hands – elusive and challenging. Back in the early days, I wasn’t fortunate enough to be blessed by mentors who could teach me how to gauge a design task practically, understand the subtleties of design scope, quantify the effort or even define the elusive concept of great design.

But here’s the twist: When I transitioned into the realm of product design, I stumbled upon a realization. It turns out that, similar to how engineers go about their work, we can indeed quantify design efforts. It’s not as abstract as it may appear. Let me break it down for you.

Start by delving deep into the “Ask”

Picture this: You’re tasked with crafting an applicant onboarding journey for a job portal. You know the basics – name, date of birth, email – the usual suspects. But have you ever stopped to ponder why users are signing up in the first place? It’s all about snagging that dream job, right? So, as designers, how can we structure the flow to coax users into providing the kind of info that’ll make them stand out to recruiters? Shift your perspective and view it through their eyes. This fresh outlook will guide you in figuring out what information to request and how to seamlessly integrate it into the onboarding process.

Keep it Concise; Enough to create Impact

Now, it’s tempting to load up the onboarding flow with all sorts of bells and whistles. But let’s not forget that our users are everyday folks with busy lives of their own. As passionate as you are with your design, users generally do not have the time or energy to invest into a task as you or your team would. So, keeping things concise becomes a must for making a genuine impact.

Estimation – A Skill that Grows with Experience

Estimating the time needed for designing these screens can feel a bit like chasing a moving target. Even after a decade in the field, I’m still fine-tuning this skill. Before you dive in, it’s crucial to clarify a few things: Are you starting with an existing design library or building from the ground up? Do you have design guidelines at your disposal or will you need to create them as you go? Are you working solo or as part of a team effort? Do you have all the necessary information (the flow you defined in the previous stage) or are there uncertainties that require educated guesses? The level and frequency of feedback from the Client and also the size of the stakeholder team; often a design is awaiting say executive feedback and some of the team members voices are overridden by somebody who looks at it later in the design phase. As you gain experience, these things will sub-conciously flow into during your estimation process – untill then, keep asking all the above questions.

Time your Progress

Once you’ve made your estimates, it’s time to let your creative juices flow. However, don’t forget to track how long it actually takes to complete your design scope. If it’s your first rodeo, don’t be surprised if your initial estimates are way off. It happens to the best of us. With practice, you’ll get better at narrowing down the variance and bringing estimates closer to actual time spent.

A Golden Rule – “Do not Estimate for Others if You Can’t Accurately Estimate for Yourself”

Measuring the Impact of Your Design

As the age-old saying goes, “Good design is like breathing; you only notice something’s wrong when you don’t get air.” When it comes to evaluating your designs, there’s no shortage of methods. However, here’s a quick and effective one: Share your work with fresh eyes and ask for their perspective. You’d be amazed at the small quirks or nuances you might’ve overlooked, which actually impacts your users.

In a nutshell quantifying design work isn’t an arcane art; it’s a skill that develops with time. By intimately understanding your design task, who you’re building it for, scoping out what you need to get done, understanding the limitations you work with, monitoring your progress and actively seeking feedback, you’ll not only refine your estimation skills but also continually elevate your design game.

The author

Shaijin is a seasoned Design Thinker with an eye for aligning Customer needs and Business Goals with Design Solutions including User Research, Graphic Design, Product Design & Design Strategy.

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