Communication is key – the product design process at monday.com
You set out to work on a feature that will solve a critical problem in your product, your preliminary research is complete, you have a pretty good grasp of the problem and already have a solution in mind. By now, you’ve invested a good chunk of time in the process and designed the perfect product! All that’s left is to upload the feature to the system. But then, a little hiccup: some technical problem you haven’t foreseen delays the development. Sounds familiar?
A final product is usually the culmination of a collaborative effort that involves people from different departments. Many of the typical challenges we encounter in our work are rooted in the failure to communicate clearly across disciplinary and professional divides.
That was the case at monday.com, until one day we decided to change course and find a more efficient formula, the golden path if you will, for designers and developers to work together in a fruitful synergy.
A long and winding path, but necessary
When the design and the development teams met for a heart-to-heart chat, we both came up with a list of difficulties, most of which were based on miscommunication and misunderstandings, partial, or inaccurate information, and the absence of a broader shared picture. But above all what mostly stood out was our strong, shared commitment to finding a better way to work together and be full partners in the creative process. The only question was: how to go about it?
Soon we realized that the best way to cultivate a pleasant and efficient work process for all parties involved is to establish a taskforce combining three factors – product management, product design, and development. The idea was simple: a framework that is conducive to ongoing dialog at every stage of the process, from start to finish; a forum where at any point everyone can touch base, raise issues and address problems.
We devised a methodical 7-step protocol for product design processes. Each step geared toward a certain necessity with respect to one or more of the partners,we came to an understanding that it is important to clear each one of them, no matter how strong the temptation (by one or more partners) to skip over or rush ahead with the process.
The 7 Step protocol – a recipe for productive collaboration
Step 1: Problem / opportunity
Understand the area you’ll be working on.
In this stage, the product designer and the product manager define and lay out in clear terms the problem and the opportunity. The purpose is to provide all members of the Taskforce an idea of the larger picture. This is a critical step in the process and therefore requires comprehensive research, both internally – from the product side, and externally from the market side- competing products and users. After collecting the data, we proceed to define the problem: what is the user’s need, what solution is currently available for him if there is one, and what are the existing constraints in terms of resources and technology.
Step 2: Shaping
A brainstorming session (or more) involving the entire Taskforce (Designer, PM, Dev) where we break the problem down into simple components and jointly lay out a preliminary solution. This can be a hand-drawn flowchart, without affording special attention to design at this point, but enough to provide everyone a clear idea of the general contours of the solution including schedule, timeline, and projected design and development.
Step 3: Design
The design should be based on what we have decided together as a team in the Shaping phase. There are countless possible solutions to choose from, so how to begin?
The first thing is to design draft & flow. Explore several directions arising from the shaping session, in flows, taking into consideration all craftsmanship aspects and, above all, the user’s needs. The flow should be short and intuitive, and the UI and the UX should be simple and clear.
Then get feedback & validate-Share your process with your taskforce, create quick usability tests within the company – be open to feedback.
Review the flow with the team – it’s another opportunity to learn more about limitations and conduct usability testing on the mockups and use the conclusions to refine the prototype.
The last sub step of the design phase is the full-flow design. After initial tests are conducted and user opinions are harvested and analyzed, you can proceed with the design process down to “Pixel Perfect” resolution. At this point, the developers have a thoroughly detailed and in-depth understanding of the flow of the projected feature.
Step 4: Feature mini kick – off and technical planning
Give developers all the information they need to start coding, so they can calculate a realistic estimation of the implementation effort. Using Figma, the Taskforce examines the final product “case by case” in order to ensure the consistent quality of the feature throughout all its intended uses down to the least predictable possibility.
It is important at this stage that the developer has a complete grasp of the design and knows precisely which components to use in the design system and where they are located.
Step 5: Tech execution
As the developers get started on your designs, actively engage in design review sessions to ensure that the designs are being implemented as planned and that the product is what you and your team had envisioned.
Step 6: Feature review (Design QA)
Pixel perfect design QA: Go over the whole flow, and try every possible scenario in which the users can potentially interact with the product.
Step 7: Release and feedback loop (post launch)
Go back to the KPIs, and check for consistency. The new feature will be made available to Alfa Users for real-time feedback on the system. If bugs or unpredictable problems that interfere with the user’s experience are reported, the release is suspended until they are fixed. Step 7 is to be repeated in a loop (the feedback loop) until all problems are cleared and the users’ experience is deemed perfect.
As a result of the initial willingness to increase the level of attentiveness and improve communication between teams, the design process at monday.com has radically changed for the better.
The process of creating a more efficient work process is itself an example of a powerful collaboration. The guiding principle of the taskforce was to make sure no partial goals are meaningful without the overarching – common – goal, that ONE end.
By making sure all parties involved are united around a common goal and in sync from the outset onwards, not only did we strengthen the sense of individual and collective responsibility but we also cultivated a purposeful environment in which all parties can flourish.