Design Review Process

Recently at work, I got to observe a outside firm present a the design for a new application.  After the designs were approved, this firm built the application. As we went through this process, we discovered several things that should have been caught earlier – prior to the start of development.  This got me thinking about the overall process of vetting the design and how we could improve.  To that, I propose this process.  Let me know what you think!

Review Roles:

  • Big boss.  This person has the final say, usually the person with the highest title.
  • Facilitator.  Someone empowered by the Big Boss to manage the process, including silencing the Big Boss themselves.  Should know most of the stakeholders, but not be a stakeholder themselves.
  • Stakeholder teams.  These are the various teams on the client side, including product development, IT, branding/design, security, accessibility, marketing, and others.

Once these persons have been identified, just into the review process:

  1. The first part of the review is one-directional, with the firm presenting the designs and why they made important choices.  The facilitator should seek to prevent anyone on the client side from asking questions or discussing the design, including the big boss.  Everyone should take notes on questions, suggestions, etc.
  2. Open the full group up for questions, but only of the format “Why did you…?”.  Allow the design firm to answer without any follow up from the client side.  The goal here is to understand how the firm came to this design, not yet to provide feedback or push for changes.
  3. The facilitator should document all of the questions and answers, and send these to the full client team with the design itself.
  4. Each stakeholder team should meet and review the design.  Now is the time to get into the details.  Markup every page!  Someone from each group needs to document the feedback and send it back to the facilitator.
  5. Give everyone 24 hours to think over the designs, and send any additional comments to the facilitator.
  6. The facilitator should consolidate the feedback and review any contested points with the big boss.  As long as there isn’t any major problems, send the feedback to the design firm in advance of a second meeting.
  7. Bring everyone back together again to review the feedback, and resolve any disagreements.  The design firm should then start the next round of designs.

Go through this process as needed, but consider that development should begin even without final requirements.  The general flow of the app should be set after the first round, and most issues should be resolved by the end of the third.

Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough – we can always fix things post-release!


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