Iterative Product Design

Why Constant Change Makes You a Better Designer

At Bipsync we employ an iterative product design process for our research management software. Based on both qualitative and quantitative feedback data, we constantly refine and improve the product by using a cyclic process of design, prototype, test and measurement.

Iterate

Unlike more traditional forms of visual design, here there is no finishing line. When you apply iterative product design, just when everything looks great – you sit back and relax, feel proud, sip some tea out of your Pantone™ mug – and it’s almost immediately time to review, test and refine again.

As a designer, this opportunity to critique and improve your work based on real-world metrics and user feedback should not be underestimated; it makes you a better designer and makes your product inherently more valuable to the user. Here’s how:

You Get to Measure the Results of Your Design Decisions

Designing a product without a continual process risks building something that, over time, will be littered with issues. When these eventually begin to surface you’ll need to make far more significant updates, which in turn tend to have a big impact on the user interface, interrupt the user experience and in some cases force users to have to re-learn your product.

It’s also nigh-on impossible to test for success or failure in these scenarios. If too many elements have changed, then any feedback and metrics you were hoping to gather become messy and meaningless, and so too does your ability to align your product roadmap with the real needs of your customer-base.

While many of the product refinements we make at Bipsync, such as changes in our code-base, don’t impact the visual experience of the product, there are plenty of design changes that do.

We release weekly product updates so that our customers get small updates quickly and often. This ensures we can rapidly introduce improvements, test new features and functionality and, crucially, ensure the scope of the testing is small and focussed enough to get meaningful data back.

As a Software as a Service (SaaS) company, this is at the heart of what we do – continuous testing and continuous deployment means continuous improvements. It also means your product is continuously in design.

For the designer, the very nature of the iterative process means you must always think of your work as in progress – deliver the best solution for that point in time, accept and embrace that things will change, and be confident this will provide the customer with the most usable and useful product.

Make Time For The Smaller Design Details

Doing the little things well is the foundation of good design. Such small purposeful, incremental changes are the core of the iterative design process.

By focussing on the small details you and your team are able to move quickly – test an assumption or an idea – get feedback and make a decision. The cumulative result of working on more granular design also makes you more informed when it comes to implementing that new feature.

Embracing criticism is another essential part of the iterative design process that ensures the outcome – even if that outcome is never final – is the best it can be. At Bipsync the whole team collaborates on the design process, people with different skills and perspectives spot very different things and therefore can have different opinions on how something looks or works. Embracing the critique of a whole team is the best way to refine something that, if designed in isolation, is at risk of becoming disconnected.

While you are focussing on the smaller elements within your product, never forget that each part is connected to another.

Product design should be a holistic process; your user will be taking a journey via interactions and connections, and these need to be considered as part of a larger environment. Remember that it’s the minutest of design details that ultimately add up to the overall experience.

So, to design a successful product you need to adopt a process of continuous improvement; guide those improvements by real world data; and use those metrics to embrace change. Allow yourself to make small things great but measure their greatness in the larger context.