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How to Stop Losing Designers Time

November 22, 2018

How to Stop Losing Designers Time

Do you check the effectiveness of your design processes? We do. Basically, our projects and team tendency for self-improvement made us review the tool-set and methodologies we are using.

Our Dashdevs company has 8 UI/UX designers who are mostly working solely on the projects (we are not taking design cross review into account).

This spring-summer period was very intensive for us — we started working on an interesting challenger bank project. This is the dream of each designer — to create a huge project from scratch. So many ideas, so much passion! Design team started working from 1 person and was increased to 4 dedicated designers working together on wireframing, prototyping, style creation, design finalization. We added a business analyst and a client engager who communicated with the client’s teams. In addition, we had a few designers from client’s side who were helping us with brand vision. The timeline was incredibly tough, the pressure was high, but we did it! Now design source files are in development by mobile (IOS, Android) and web teams.

When I look back at that period of time I can see how many things could be done in another way. But when you are in the flow of continues changes of scope, people, style, processes you are just doing your best to bring up the results. We know that we can do everything better. So after we have successfully passed design deadline we had really long project retrospective meeting to figure out what can be done in a better way in future.

The list of issues was long, but here are time-eaters that had bothered us the most:

  1. Everyday merge of the results to one file. It’s easy when you are working alone on the project, but in opposite way when you have 4 internal designers (+ 2 designers from client’s side). Merge process looked like everyday hell at the end of the project. We missed some small changes, updates.
  2. Changes in libraries were not implemented in time. Therefore, we needed to redo some screens, fix them after the library was updated.
  3. Prototyping process.The project had more than 700 screens. Because of all merge problems we couldn’t use Craft correctly, so the main prototyping was done in inVision. It took us hours. And the changes were every day. So it was the second part of the hell.

In very deed, eliciting/understanding the list of these problems is a huge step forward for us. It had raised the problems across all company projects. When we are working on smaller projects we don’t realize how many hours we are loosing on them. Critical. Need to be fixed. We want new tools and new approaches.

Overall, what is the next step?

  1. The first step — breath out.We are the greatest team that made the project against all the odds.
  2. The second step — research. There must be solutions on the market that can help us. We had the list of the tools we needed and criteria for decision (that were optimal for our projects and the company in general).
  3. The third step — choose and try. We agreed on the tools and make the internal trial period for them — 1 month. We were using these tools on 3 different projects in order to try- mobile and web design with one or more designers.
  4. The fourth step — analyze results and make a decision.
  5. The fifth step — spread tools across the company.

Everybody in the team agreed on the steps and started to work on the research. So excited, we tried different tools, read articles and reviews. We had some calls with the representatives of different prototyping tools, file versioning tool companies. Discussed and compared the result. This process of improvement had brought energy to our team. After a month we had a finalized solution, that suits the needs of Dashdevs company. Here is the toolset that we decide to use:

  1. Design versioning tool — Abstract. The cool tool with the thoughtful interface. We tried different apps — Plant, Kactus, Github but they didn’t match our requirements. This tool is solving now a lot of our problems:
  2. All design files are in one place with timestamps. A simple way to find any previous version of the file.
  3. Responsibility for changes. Now we knew who had done the changes and could revert them (if there is a case of need).
  4. Merge time got 10 times less. It’s easy to compare screens before and after, find out what artboards were edited, and you definitely know when the file is ready for the merge
  5. Design file delivery to developers. Devs just receive the link to the correct file and it is always up to date(no matter what designers are doing next). Basically Abstract is using Git-flow so our devs understand it really well.
  6. Simplification of cross-review. Easy to understand the task and to see the changes in artboards even for the designer from another team.
  7. Library updates — after every library change all users receive notification about it and can do a one-click update.
  8. Speed of Sketch performance was increased.
  9. Change the prototyping process — Sketch+Marvel. We start to work with native Sketch prototyping tools and upload it to Marvel prototyping app. We are saving 75% of the time on prototyping now. You can see all artboards and links in Sketch. And clients get an actual prototype in a few clicks.

Do we like our solutions? Yes, for sure! These changes have already saved hours for Dashdevs and we can provide our clients with better service.

As the application development studio, in general, we are constantly in pursuit of quality and self-improvement. We are open to changes and will do them.

Anna Yelovskaya, UI/UX designer, Design TechLead

Irina Bulygina, Head of Client Engagement department

Originally posted on Medium