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Choosing the Right Design Deliverables for Your Clients

September 24, 2018

There are many types of deliverables, including presentations, reports and design artifacts such as wireframes, prototypes, and specifications for engineering. It’s not always necessary for a deliverable to show the final version of what a product will look like after being implemented. In many cases, deliverables can be helpful in team decision making, making critiques, and validating designs or identifying the need to make improvements. You need not always strive for perfection.

UX designers focus too much on design deliverables because they are the output of our process, and we want them to look as good and stylish as possible. That mindset usually comes from agencies who sell their services and whose deliverables must make a huge impact to attract and solidify their relationships with their clients.

For UX professionals, deliverables are very tangible manifestations of the way we think. But not everyone understands the terminology we often use when presenting or discussing our ideas during the various phases of a UX design cycle. Thus, deliverables are useful in helping us to express complicated ideas or functionality and making them easier for everyone else in the room to understand.

Let’s be honest. There are cases when attention to design by other disciplines on a product team is lacking. People have their own daily tasks. So it’s your duty to present your deliverables in the simplest, most understandable way possible. In this way, you can create a level playing field for everyone in the room during design discussions. Design is an inclusive process and collaborative design usually requires the presence of experts in various fields—typically, design, engineering, and product management or marketing. UX designers facilitate discussions during which the input of everyone in the room is valuable in providing solutions to users’ problems and making design decisions that let you proceed to the next steps in the product-development process.

Making the Right Arguments

But what if people are not collaborative? There might people with big egos who are disruptive to the process and just want their own ideas to win. So, when sharing your design deliverables, you always run some risk in choosing which deliverable to show. This is why it’s important to express your reasoning and the short-term goals that you want to achieve from a meeting before showing, presenting, or discussing anything.

In such meetings, someone might say: “Why do we have to discuss these details?” “Why are we even tackling this component now? We can easily change it in the future.” Usually what they’re really saying is: “Show us something big or different. Show us what the future of this product will look like.” Such questions emphasize the fact that what you’re going to make is more important than the journey you take in getting there. But sometimes, the making becomes the destination instead of the path to the destination. Design deliverables don’t imply that you’re at the end of the design process. They’re just the end of one iteration and the design process can continue.

At such crucial moments, you need to take control of the dialogue. Of course, this means a little more work for you! Working with people is sometimes more complicated than doing the work itself. Meeting facilitation is a skill that every UX professional must master, but what works well differs from one person to another, depending on their charisma, communication style, and other factors. There’s no one perfect way of mastering such situations. But your role is to be the one who keeps the balance.

It’s not possible to assess the value of this amazing process of design just through numbers. We can’t buy UX design or other intellectual services in the same way we’d buy pens. Of course, I understand that numbers count in every field of business, but it’s important to maintain the right balance or a situation can easily get out of control. You must consider every aspect of the experience and user journey, including visibility, ease of use, effectiveness, and engagement. When making deals with design firms or teams, never ask “How many wireframes?” before going through an exploration process.

During a review of your design deliverables, discuss and visualize every issue around each element that you need to fix rather than rushing into quick decisions or prematurely moving on to the next big thing. Discuss every behavior and every scenario possible and achieve team alignment in making decisions. Achieving alignment is more important than being right or fighting for your opinion. In this way, you can avoid blame games later on—“I was right, and she was wrong.”

Of course, once open discussions are underway, there will always be some unclear use cases. But, by taking this approach, you can have fruitful discussions on ways to improve the user experience involving the whole product team.

Types of Design Deliverables

What type of deliverable you should choose to create depends on what best serves information transfer. There are three classes of design deliverables:

  • creation deliverables
  • communication deliverables
  • validation deliverables

Creation Deliverables

What is a creation deliverable and what is its purpose? Usually, it’s best to provide low-fidelity deliverables during early stages of design because your focus should not be on high-quality visual rendering, but on effectively communicating your initial idea for a design solution. Once you’ve identified the problem you need to solve and the user for whom you’ll solve it, start playing with solutions. Think through where to place all the elements. You can provide different options for solving the problem, creating artifacts as you refine the solutions. This helps you to externalize your understanding of the solution and put together all of information you’ve gathered so far.

At this stage, the fidelity doesn’t have to be perfect. Actually, the precision of high fidelity can sometimes shift the focus away from exploration toward rearranging layouts, which is not desirable. Walking through each step of the user’s process helps you get the right answers and is generally the source of the best ideas.

Communication Deliverables

Communicating everything that you learn from each design session keeps the team aligned. Usually, it is good to maintain consistency across successive iterations of deliverables to ensure people don’t forget the main source of inspiration. Communicating is almost half of what UX professionals do. When we bring new people onto a project at later stages of the project, we need to communicate the design decisions we’ve already made and how we made them and share other information about how the project is proceeding. These deliverables are not going to be the final versions, so that’s why communication is of paramount importance in getting there. When considering decisions, questions, critiques, and new insights, be cognizant of the needs of the people with whom you’re trying to communicate. Will your deliverables speak the same language as the people who are trying to absorb your ideas?

Validation Deliverables

In validation deliverables, you can share all the various UX research methods you’ve used. They also communicate whether what you’ve created is appropriate for your target users, how your solution will make users more effective, and how you’ll resolve the issues before other expenses and investments flow in. There are different forms of validation. These deliverables must be very well curated in every detail because you are about to put a product out in the world. Therefore, validation deliverables should be as realistic as possible. If it’s difficult to understand them, people are not going to be able to validate them properly.

The people to whom you’re showing your work won’t always understand what UX designers do—even the people within your company. For various reasons, they might not be able to focus sufficiently on your work, so be sure you show them stable versions of your designs. Of course, if people don’t understand what you’re showing them, it might be a signal that the design needs improvement. But because they don’t yet know how the product works, the design artifact has to be good enough to provide that insight.

Conclusion

Not only should you specify and create detailed deliverables, you should also explain your current stage in an iterative design process. Therefore, it’s best to categorize your deliverables based on their focus of attention. Make sure to communicate clearly how much time and effort realizing certain design options would take. Don’t create things just because you need to. Create the things your users need. When working with product teams, be productive, effective, and most importantly, helpful. Be sure to create deliverables that are appropriate to the various stages of your design process and that communicate effectively to your audience. 

UX Expert at UBS

Wroclaw, Poland

Lindi RekaLindi provides UX services and solutions, helping companies create the right user-interface designs for their digital products, increasing their performance and usability, and simplifying the user experience. She creates wireframes and prototypes, tests design solutions, and assists in their implementation. Her empathy for users enables her to deliver human-centered design solutions that benefit both users and her stakeholders and clients.  Read More

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