Keep on keeping on dude! (A turtle floating with a balloon tied in its shell).

Designers don’t give up!

Sometimes we need to use hard times as an opportunity for getting better at our skills. Think of it this way: one day I will tell you a great story about it. Well, today I will tell you one:

It was in roughly 2013, I managed a team of web designers and our mission was to produce many layouts for websites like a factory. And we were suffering a huge pressure from the directors of the department, regarding many problems, such as:

  • Keep refreshing our product
  • Ensuring the quality of the website
  • We had a queue of layouts waiting to be made
  • Our development team didn’t develop new features because of short deadlines
  • The sales department sold projects without enough knowledge and promised things we couldn’t afford
  • The designers were discouraged because of the work rhythm
  • Customers were unsatisfied because of the huge wait time
  • When we started out make the layout the client didn’t remember what he wanted
  • The company was losing because of this disorganised process

So, how we can change this situation, at the moment the pressure upon us was increasing and everything was going to be our fault. But we didn’t just stay watching everything without doing nothing, we needed to find one recipe to show for the company where was the problem and how we can change that.

Exactly at this challenging moment we were studying about design thinking. So we decided to use some of the design thinking tools to solve the situation.

Here was our design thinking process

Interview with every employee involved in the process

First we interviewed each area responsible and we were trying to understand the pain points and how their opinion could change that situation. Thus, we listened to people from Customer Success, Sales and IT Department.

Benchmarking

We also researched about other companies and other ways to work and which type of professional could be lacking in our development process. We learned about marketing agencies and Scrum methodology.

Service journey

We needed to have one complete vision of the whole process and we knew that no one had this vision in our company. Thus, we designed the process of creating our website like one big factory.

Mapping customers like personas

We identified which types of customers bought our products, their feelings and pathway through our company.

Evaluation of our team members

We studied our team members’ skills and how each designer could contribute in our design process to understand more about our development capacity. In addition, to figure out what we were doing from the briefing to the launch.

So here is what we learned and what we proposed for the company:

Departments were working separately

Problem: One of the reasons of our struggle was because the teams worked separately from one another. Nobody knew what the other teams were working on. Imagine Back-End, Front-End and the Design teams working separately without communication and each one in a different project.

Solution: Work together in squads and running scrum! Yeah, it seems like a simple solution, but almost six years ago, some companies were not prepared to change their familiar culture.

We didn’t’ have any sales people with design background

Problem: The sales people were offering many services that we could not do. When we did the layout, we would spend a lot of time trying to explain what was possible and what could not be done.

Solution: Have one designer with experience in sales to solve all of our communications problems. Because this designer knew exactly what was possible to make and not make. In addition, we want to meet client expectations and prepare other teams to do the same.

The project wasn’t organized

Problem: Our projects didn’t have enough timeline estimation, roadmaps and consistency. Nobody knew when one project started and when one finished. No one produced reports and metrics for the project improvements like a hypothesis evolution process. Besides that in each step of the project, the customers talked with different professionals such as: the designer, the developer and the customer success team.

Solution: Upon researching the problems above, we concluded that we needed a Project Manager. In other words, this professional could keep the process, make reports, manage deadlines, manage the pricing, manage customer relationships and build a bridge with the director. We definitely needed someone to help us with this situation.

We needed a new business model

Problem: We had three types of packages to sell and all had a closed price. It was a big problem because sometimes the customer wanted something additional that was not included in the package and we could not say no and if we said yes, we could not charge more. In most cases, we ended up doing what the client wanted for fear of the customer canceling the software subscription and in the end the company had great loss of money, time, and energy.

Solution: Placing one designer in the sales department made it possible to make specific budgets to each project. The customers now knew exactly what they were buying and the company knew exactly how much effort and time it would take to launch the project.

Our website never had new features

Problem: Because of the rush to develop, and our disorganised process and our lack of budget we couldn’t propose new features or evolve the websites. Thus, our websites were being outdated and the designers couldn’t make what they liked to make that is innovative.

Solution: We had deadlines aligned with the clients’ timelines, budget, and the structure process then it made it easier for our designers to create new features. We researched the new features instead of just creating layouts like a factory. In addition, the factors listed in this article provided the best creative environment.

Text in image is blurred to hide sensitive data (A huge infographic showing the process as a factory).

It was just the beginning

At the time, we didn’t have time to make this work, so we did everything in our overtime hours without some of the employers even knowing it. We would rather show it all at once.

Thus, we documented our work and showed it the directors and they loved it and asked us to present it to the whole company. They opened the company’s process for us and gave us permission to change everything that could be wrong. The way we worked changed a lot after that. Our quality improved, the clients became more satisfied and we were really proud ourselves. Even though, we implemented this new process, we discovered that some of our ideas were wrong. So after a while a new team emerged named “Projects Team” and this new team changed the company history forever.

So, designers don’t give up!

Me presenting our work to everyone (I’m in the middle of a lot of people presenting the work).

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