Estimate

What does it take to design experiences

As I scrawled the estimates for a routine design phase on a whiteboard, a colleague was intrigued by the way I broke down my estimates. It’s a frustrating aspect of agency life that many people think of designing experiences in terms of wireframing. I adopted a simple technique to help break through this production mentality and buy the team ‘time to think’ – a rare commodity at the best of times!

It’s simple…I estimate each component, screen or section against three attributes; Talk, Explore & Communicate. This additional granularity enables me to provide more accurate estimates. It also helps the wider team to better understand what the design process actually entails. I loosely define these attributes as follows:-

Talk
This is how much time I need to gather all the necessary information before I have the majority of information required to explore the design options. Depending on the complexity of what I’m designing, a water cooler moment might be enough, or I may need one or more workshops to make sense of the requirements.

Explore
Design is not a straight path and not every design challenge has a single solution. I need time to explore the different design options. This is the heart of the design process, where I think through the design problem, applying lo-fi methods to explore and refine ideas in a fast and iterative manner until one is reached and agreed on. Computers are not invited.

Communicate
And finally, this is where I communicate the information architecture and interaction models in sufficient fidelity to be implemented. It’s important to pick the right comms tool for the job, be it final designs annotated with post-it notes, omnigraffle wireframes or interactive Axure prototypes.

This isn’t rocket science, but I find this simple technique results in more accurate estimates. A single number against a screen often gets squeezed as the wider team fail to understand some of the complexities and the design thinking involved to craft something that meets the business goals and make the customers happy. I got in to this game to craft customer experiences that make a difference and this technique is a small step in shifting the focus to where it needs to be.

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