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Blue Stairway

Formalizing Validation

A Design Thinking strategy used to improve team productivity, promote collaboration, and scale product growth
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Project Brief

Client

Pricewaterhouse Coopers

Role

Product Design Manager

Project

Internal Design Ops

Project Description

Managing a global product design team involves challenges beyond time zones and borders.

As a manager, I needed to establish collaborative guidelines that aligned the creative team and defined an inclusive delivery solution while keeping the process agile.

Why Are We Here?

Our design team spans 13 time zones, speaks four unique native languages, and all individual group members utilize an undefined design and pattern library. As a result, collaboration, feedback, and direction were complex. Our delivery process experienced fidelity mishaps, unrefined patterns, component and design inconsistencies, and an overall lack of clarity with the rest of the product team. Out of frustration, we decided to go rogue and build a formalized design and delivery process modeled around collaboration and inclusion.

Help Us Help You

The design team needed alignment and clarity. In addition, our creative delivery process had massive gaps and needed a design pattern library.

Identify Problem Areas

The first step was to recognize a problem. Then, auditing these items to a list was the beginning of looking for patterns and themes; after identifying them, we could plot on a designer's user journey map.

Build a Pattern Library

After our component audit, we built a separate pattern library using our existing design system.

Not only did this eliminate the UI guesswork, but by adding a new shared pattern library, we could quickly build pages, share the templates with the front-end development team, and eliminate guesswork.

Identify Critical Touchpoints

The design team audited and mapped our current design process, including research, iteration, and final handoff.

Milestones & Goals

Going into this process, we knew it would be challenging to implement or fully participate. So our collective goal was to be small but mighty—a series of minor, incremental enhancements. Just enough to move the dial, and over time, our small wins would amount to significant changes.

Research! Research! Research!

Unfortunately, research often takes a back seat in the UX process and can be overlooked or forgotten entirely. PwC has a (super talented) strategy and research team that has created workshop templates built to show the value of research that anyone can use regardless of whether you’re a designer or product owner. At times, product teams didn’t know when or where to schedule research initiatives, but we were able to help by showing opportunities where research could be conducted and, based on the results, where refinement would take place.

Create a Pattern Library Using Existing Components

The current design system lacked a general usage guide. Unfortunately, this uncertainty led to confusion as we entered the design process without clarity. So, as a team, we built a pattern library using the existing design system components and created something special for the entire enterprise organization to utilize.

Transparency & Collaboration

Simply put, we wanted to showcase what we could bring to the table and the value of design. Design collaboration is invaluable as it fosters creativity, enhances problem-solving, improves the overall quality of the final product, and, ultimately, results in more well-rounded and user-centric designs, driving customer satisfaction and business success.

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Accessibility

Define Research Strategy

Design Delivery Process

We designed an inclusive process to share a design delivery process with the entire product team. 

Our goal was to be at least 2-sprints ahead of production by outlining critical deliverables for each junction and who was responsible for approval. This process helped us align with stakeholder visions and business goals and mark the dedicated time for research and user testing. The design team created an acceptance criteria process based on the inclusion of other team members, including developers, accessibility, and design systems teams. 

 

Our design delivery process complements the existing nexus-level agile delivery process by seamlessly integrating into existing delivery schedules. Adopting this process required little effort from the remaining team members.

Who is Responsible for What?

We lumped our delivery process into three buckets: Tasks, People Involved, and Deliverables. Each item, from Research to Final Deliverables, was marked on this roadmap, defining our entire process. Total conciseness!

Conduct Interviews
UX Strategy/ Research
Journey Mapping
UX Lead
Product Owner
Personas
Translate Data into Design Decisions

Task

People Involved

Deliverables

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Let's Keep it Agile!

For our proposed delivery process to work well with other teams, we had to confirm that it was agile. Therefore, we were careful to avoid introducing a new way of doing things all at once, but instead, we piggybacked our approach on the existing delivery rails.

For the Designers

Always use the design system and component library. If there is an issue (which there will be), log the case, and we will discuss it as a team during our design review.

Conduct a final design review with the developers when a sprint is close to completion.

For the Developers

We identified and removed all non-compliant design components and ensured the developers were not using unauthorized frameworks. We also established open lines of communication and rulesets. This relationship would prove effective for accessibility enhancements and confirm that our product met or exceeded WCAG guidelines.​

For the Scrum Master

We were not looking to disrupt the agile process but instead align with the existing roadmap and chart, which indicated where design handoffs would occur, who would be responsible, and what the expected deliverables would be.

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Voice of the Product

Building a product in English is challenging due to communication barriers. These all caused substantial impacts on copywriting. Unfortunately, more often than not, copy just appeared, which was usually an oversight by a highly technical developer or Product Owner looking to fill the void. Rarely was there any consideration given to the person who would read the message once an error or instructions were on the screen.

VOP is a team effort!

How to solve this complicated issue was to include copywriting in our system mapping process by flagging errors and messaging. By mapping where an error or messaging could appear, we would devise solutions to guide the user to support or the best way to continue. We would also tag the errors and messaging alerts and add them to our repo.

 

Next, we would build a glossary of our technical terms and phrases and make sure we refer to these items when referencing. It was vital for us to remember that highly specialized users were using our product; however, for our communication guidelines, it was crucial that we not only use human-readable language but also offer guidance and encouraging tones. Lastly, we would filter our copy decks through user personas to confirm clarity and understanding.

Using AI for copywriting

We used AI to generate the copy and filter through additional typing assistant software for further clarity and proper grammar. We were careful not to input sensitive company information and restrict our use of AI to messaging, alerts, and error messaging.

<howdy>

Project Takeaway &  Metrics

Our process eliminated countless hours of design churn and ambiguity. The design team delivered page comps confidently, and we could allocate more effort to research. The designers could share their process and map it to our design delivery roadmap, allowing clear opportunities for collaboration. We could scale this process at an enterprise level and encourage other design teams to adopt this process.

Collaboration
Design Consistency
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