A few days ago, I finished working on my first client project.
It was my first ever real project. It came with its learnings and challenges. I was lucky enough to find a supportive manager and a team member who helped me throughout the project. The task was to design a job seeking/hiring mobile app. The app that can be used by both, people who are looking for a job and employers who are looking for staff for their business. There were three primary industries the clients wanted to focus on — Personal Grooming, Food & Beverages, and Home Health Care. It seemed simple at first but it got complex as I started working on it.
To begin with, I was given lots of requirement documents to study. It helped me have a good understanding of the project. There were 3 target users of the app, the job-seeker, the main employer and the hiring manager. The clients also wanted to add gamification to the app to make it more engaging.
My job was to give a visual form to their ideas. Our clients wanted us to create an MVP prototype to show to potential investors. At the initial phase, the idea was not fully developed. My role was to help them refine their idea and help them figure out their minimum viable product (MVP). This required lots of discussions and design iterations as we moved towards building a prototype.
Here are my takeaways from the project:
1. Focus on the bigger picture, The MVP
As it was my first project, I wanted to pay attention to every minute detail and wanted to deliver my best. The documents that clients had shared were detailed with lots of features and long term goals which left me unclear about the scope of the MVP.
In the initial phase of the project, I performed a competitor analysis, and as a new or call it a naive designer, I wanted the app to be like the already established ones which have “nice to have” features. The challenge for me was to get rid of the urge to incorporate those features and stick to just the “must-haves”. They can definitely improve the user experience but are not needed for the MVP. You can make a separate list of such features and choose to work on it later.
Make sure everything is aligned with the major business goals. It is important to look at the bigger picture and not get bogged down in the details.
2. Do not blindly chase perfection
I am one of those people who likes to make things “nearly” perfect, and I say so because I have realized that, perfection is an illusion and trying to make things perfect is a never-ending process.
Perfection has diminishing returns. As long as your work is presentable and serving the purpose, you do not have to make an extra effort for the changes that won’t even get noticed.
Julie Zhuo has “perfectly” put it in her article Battling Perfectionism
– “The thing is, perfectionism tends to be rooted in fear rather than opportunity.”
For this project, I had to convert the wireframes I was building into an interactive prototype. So I tried making wireframes look good to the point where I started experimenting with colors knowing the fact that these are just wireframes and it is not wise to waste time on this. But I have this inner voice that says “if I am going to share it with clients, it better be presentable”. Yeah, that was the fear! Sometimes you do that for your own satisfaction even if it is not going to make much difference in the end. It is the mindset that makes you push that extra pixel and it takes time to change that.
3. Communication with clients
Get to know your clients: Getting to know your clients prior to the work meeting helps to understand their requirements better. It is said that people are trickier than tools, and knowing your clients can help you a lot in explaining certain points in a way that they can easily understand and giving the right direction to the agenda.
Listen carefully: I believe that listening is the most important skill to have in a meeting. Listen patiently to what the clients have to say, you might get answers to some of your questions before you even ask. And if needed, ask for the explanation again. Time spent listening carefully in the present saves rework in the future.
Do not put your clients on the spot: Asking questions that put them on the spot should be avoided. Instead, it is better to send them the questions ahead of time, it gives them time to analyze your questions and get back to you with answers which are well thought of.
It goes the same for you as well. If you are unsure of what is asked to you, you should feel free to tell them that you are not sure at this moment but will get back to them once you find the answer.
Suggesting changes: Clients can be from different backgrounds so it is possible that they might not understand the design or technical constraints at first. You should suggest changes in a constructive manner. After all, you are there to help them.
Working remotely with clients: Working remotely in different time zone can be challenging. As you and your client have different working hours, the meetings are time-bound making it difficult to brainstorm and discuss every issue or get answers to every question.
To overcome these issues, it is important to create a robust documentation and communication process. You must make the most of tools such as instant messaging, email and collaborative features on design software.
Document your questions: Write down your questions in a document and share it with your clients. Encourage them to add answers and comments in the same document This helps when you and your client are working in different time zones. Along with documenting questions, you should also document your ideas which did not work out. Keeping track of your questions and ideas can be of great help for future reference.
Tools: Encourage your clients to use tools like Slack and Google Docs to make communication much easier and faster.
4. Setting deadline
It is difficult to get an estimation of the time you are going to spend on the piece of work. This is especially challenging when you are inexperienced. Therefore it is important to set a deadline when you start working. It is tempting to tweak your piece of work to the last minute but you must remember that your clients are waiting for you to finish. I have learned it the hard way and still trying to improve upon this.
5. Asking for feedback
Working as part of a team is important. While people may have different roles, feedback from non-designers can be equally helpful to the product as feedback from a designer. It gives you a different perspective and tells the user side of the story. I was lucky to get really constructive feedback from my team members.
6. Just dive in
There are situations when you find yourself getting tangled between all the documents and information you are provided. It becomes difficult to know where to start. The best way to clear the picture is to start working on it with whatever little you understood. Eventually, you start connecting all the pieces and the idea starts taking its shape.
7. Remember to detach
This is something I would remind myself, again and again. Do not get too attached to the project that you don’t have room for any other ideas or thoughts. Detaching yourself from a certain idea can help you explore other ideas. It is equally true for work as well. Taking a break from work increases productivity and helps you head back more energized.
Writing about your project is a good way to reflect back on what sort of challenges you came across and what you have learned so far. To get detailed insights about prototypes you may like to visit Certain Dos and Don’ts for Building Effective App Prototypes.