D3 – Designing with Clients

Few months ago, we started experimenting with a new Design workflow that we called D3. D3 stands for Deep Dive Design. Prior to D3, we used a communication-intensive process where we involve clients and users in the input and output of each design iteration: vision, usability metrics, stories, tasks, requirements, brainstorming, sketches, wireframes, and visual designs. The earlier and more frequently we communicated, the better quality designs we got, and the happier clients and users were.

We then thought about raising the communication bar further, and wondered what it would be like to have clients as active participant in the design process. So we decided to invite each client to spend a full week on-site with us. During that week, the client brings marketing, business and engineering team members to our offices and we spend 5-6 hours a day together, working on the following:

  • Day 1: Vision and success metrics
  • Day 2: Users and stories
  • Day 3: Tasks and flow
  • Day 4: Ideation and brainstorming
  • Day 5: Requirements and sketches

Here are some of the reasons why we believe D3 works great:

  • Spending a day hearing clients share their dreams, their vision and their motivation proved to be a great bonding exercise. Being on the same page is the most valuable starting point. We fully get the WHAT and the WHY behind the project, and we become part our client’s story.
  • Our design process becomes fully transparent to the client. They learn our language and they later use the same terminology to communicate feedback and requests.
  • The client returns with a very good idea about how the design vision aligns with the rest of the product, with insights into many of the design detail that will be delivered over the following weeks.
  • Marketing, business and engineering team members provide ideas and feedback on feature design. We found that everyone in the team can be a great design thinker, if they are placed in the right environment and provided with the right tools and vocabulary to express their ideas. They see how easy it is to capture ideas in crude sketch format, and how to express designs visually and effectively.
  • Team members go home with practical design thinking lessons that they continue using as they discuss the product among each other.
  • D3 is ideal for scrum and agile teams as they get to see the big picture while working on the detail. They don’t just remember features, but users and stories as well. Later on, they use personas names and stories to reference the features that they are working on. Many times we had engineers prototyping ideas that we didn’t think about, and showing them to us saying “We thought that Jessica would really enjoy having this feature when she’s picking up her neighbor’s daughter”.
  • The process reduces surprises to a minimum. There are always some new ideas that we will think of when we design the detail, and more requirements that the marketing or business teams will ask us to include, but they are never disruptive to the big picture.
  • At the end of the week, everyone is more excited about getting started with the prototyping process. We started the week on the same page: the problem, and we ended it also on the same page: the solution. We know we hit the jackpot when, at the end of the week, we look each other in the eye and exchange the silent agreement: We’re going to make this happen. Together.

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