Best Practices for Designing in Groups
Teamwork makes the dream work, but the only way this can work is if teams work together in a truly collaborative way.
There is no room for egos and unwavering minds in the world of design. Yes you have a product to deliver and you want it to be as aesthetically sound and contemporary as possible, but at the end of the day each website and experience is a portal to deliver a business objective. And it is this business objective that comes first.
“It’s not about what idea has to win, it’s about what we have to win as a team,” said Scott Hooten, Creative Director at Voltage, based out of Colorado.
As leader of Voltage’s design and user experience team, Hooten works with individuals from several departments everyday and he’s learned a thing or two about what makes a team run smoothly. He took some time to share his tips with us about best practices for collaborating on designs.
Culture Comes First
“You need to hire and foster the right kind of culture and the right kind of people because if somebody is just out for their own interest at the expense of the team, they want to have this project in their portfolio and they want to be able to say that they did everything on it, it’s not going to work. It just kills the dynamic,” he said.
Hiring people who understand that design plays a key role in delivering a business objective, and that meeting that business objective is crucial to the success of the agency, is key.
Define the Mission or Objective
Right off the bat, make sure you know exactly what the problem is that you’re trying to solve. “If you don’t have a clear set expectation of what the problem is that you’re trying to solve, you’re not going to have a very effective brainstorm,” Hooten says.
Understand Your Team
If you work with the kind of team that is introverted or contains a handful of dominant personalities, Hooten recommends relaying the problem to the team and then encouraging them to come to a brainstorming meeting equipped with a set number of ideas to encourage participation. He also recommends bringing non-designers into the brainstorming process to foster ideas that people close to design may not recognize.
“We like to do as much brainstorming as possible at the beginning of the project to bring in different perspectives, so we try to get account people, developers, designers all in the same room to share ideas,” Hooten said.
Assess What Constitutes A Great Idea
Brainstorming sessions can make teams excited and lose track of the business objectives. Hooten recommends defining what constitutes a good idea. At Voltage, they take a three-prong approach:
- Is it new?
- Is it useful?
- Is it feasible?
An idea must meet those requirements in order to be considered a great idea.
Establish Clear Responsibilities
“The other thing when you’re collaborating is to make sure everybody is clear on their responsibilities,” Hooten said.
After these brainstorming sessions, it’s crucial to assign tasks so that each deliverable is accounted for, especially when multiple designers and developers are working on the same project. A hierarchy may need to be established. This will ensure nothing gets missed or lost in ambiguity over whose job it was to complete a certain task.
At Voltage, they’re all about that face-to-face connection.
“We try to keep people within the same room so it’s easier to slide your chair over and get their thoughts on something,” Hooten said. “If somebody is across the office, people are inherently hesitant to get up and go. You really need to check in and prompt people even if it’s for five minutes or less. I think people tend to get stuck in silos, designers and developers, and it’s good to prod people and say, have you checked with a developer on this to get their feedback?”
If engaging with people in a different office, Hooten says to make it more personal. Invite them to a video conference rather than engaging in an email chain or chat. This not only speeds up the process, but it encourages teams to work more closely together.
Embrace Project Management Tools
Adobe Experience Manager may also be helpful here as it allows you to assign tasks and streamline processes, while storing things in Adobe Creative Cloud makes accessing design work easier and more fluid, especially when multiple people are working on the same project.
“If you don’t have that and stuff is just locked up in emails and different versions and nobody knows who has the last version, tools like that are critical,” Hooten said.
Bring Design Conflicts Back to Business Objectives
If one designer takes a particular stance on a design element, or multiple designers are conflicted, it’s always about bringing it back to the purpose for the design in the first place: the business objective. It’s not about whether something should be one shade or the next; it’s about redirecting the conversation so it’s centered on how that aspect of the design can help achieve a certain objective.
Assess and Evaluate
When the project is wrapped, take a step back to look at how everything worked across the board from a project management standpoint. Look not just at the design, but also at the development, the budget, the interactions with the clients, and whether or not deliverables were executed on time. What could the team do next time to make the next project even better?
Encouraging teams to work together from beginning to end helps to create a culture where everyone understands how their work contributes to making each project a success. That’s a win for the entire company.