Are you a developer, thinking beyond just bug fixes or technical specifications and considering how usable your application is? Are you a tech lead tasked with managing the entire scope of an overhaul? Or maybe you are a product owner, with the goal of managing your company’s redesign project?
Ultimately, you find yourself asking, “How do I go about redesigning this application?”
This can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t have a design team and/or designer to work with.
I’m here to say, it doesn’t have to be.
We can help, if even just to get you off to the right start. Here are a few things to help you prepare.
Gain Clarity on the Goals and Vision
What is it that you are trying to do anyway? What are you trying to achieve as a company with the application? What’s the end goal? Where is the application heading to in the future? Sitting down and mapping out with your team where you want to be and what you want to solve will help provide the clarity you need.
Reconnect With Your Users
To be successful with your redesign, you first need to understand your users, again. Your application should be solving a problem for them, and helping them through a task.
So, you can ask yourself:
- What are your users' needs?
- What are their motivations?
- What are the scenarios and environments in which they are using your application?
- What is the lens in which they are using your application? What’s their perspective?
If you can get feedback from current users, that would be valuable. Have them walk through their experience. Get to know what they are thinking, feeling and doing. And keep notes so you can share your findings (and they’ll come in handy later).
Do the Goals and Vision Align With the Needs?
Treat all these details as puzzle pieces. You’ll begin to see a full picture, which should communicate the vision, the problems you need to solve, and the tasks to complete.
Do the pieces align together? Great, this should be the guide for all of you for your project. Your entire team should understand this and rally behind it.
If the pieces don’t fit, take a step back and see if you’re trying to solve the wrong problem and fix it.
Re-Examine Your Application
With a clear direction of where you need to be, ask yourself, “How does the application align with the needs of the user?” The information and research you were able to collect from your users should now reveal opportunities in a user’s workflow. The vision you clearly laid out should be your focus. With workflows mapped out, identify the opportunities and gaps that will align your work to the vision.
For example, let’s say you have a subscription process and you want it to grow to a worldwide user base. Current users are complaining that registering is complicated and takes too long (and thus, abandoning). Are there opportunities where the registration process can be simplified? Can you identify where the gap in onboarding users exists? If you want to be global, are there language barriers that might be impeding users? This is where looking at your application’s workflows and aligning it against the needs and vision, will help you realize the opportunities that exist to improve the experience and better align with your end goal.
Build Your Map
These new pieces will start to form your user stories of what a user should be able to do. As you add, you should be able to see how these stories align with the goals and vision. If they do not, strike them or set them aside to revise and think through further. Keep identifying these steps to get closer to the vision. It should be the map of how you are going to get there.
If your application is like most, you’ve now accumulated A LOT of steps to achieve your end goal, and you’re wondering how it will get done. Don’t fret.
To ensure you don’t scope out a project that will take years (and will most likely lose momentum), you need to prioritize your list of user stories. You can try this exercise with your team, ensuring everyone is in agreement about scope.
- Using post-its, list out each user story and put it on the board.
- As you start to get more, group them into “like” categories to keep things organized.
- Within those category groups, prioritize the stories with the top being “needs to happen” and work your way down.
- One way to do this is to think about dependencies. If one user story has to be thought through and implemented before another, it goes above. Another way is to identify those that need to be done now vs. those that fit more in a maybe/someday list.
- Now working through all stories, you can start to identify “releases” or iterations of work.
- Some do this through one category at a time (ie. “work on registration first” “then homepage”). Some choose to draw a line across, working on elements across the whole application. This largely depends on how your design and development team will work together.
Now you are ready to build your project plan and get your team aligned on the schedule and scope. However, your team works (agile, waterfall, hybrid, etc) – be sure everyone is clear on the deliverables and milestones and check in regularly to identify dependencies and roadblocks.
Work and Test
Your team should work through the roadmap, testing their ideas as they go and communicating with the team to ensure everyone is on board. As new ideas or issues arise, see where it falls in the scope and make adjustments as you go.
Remember to be flexible, and pivot when needed. Sometimes designs need changes due to technical limitations, sometimes implementations reveal a hole in the design. Either way, be ready for adjustments and refinements and keep checking against your vision and goals.
Launch, Observe, Iterate
As you get ready to launch, your team should have a plan set for next steps. Whether you launch a beta version and gain test user feedback, or you set metrics to observe over time, have a plan for how you will track the success of your work. This will give you the information you need to make future changes and iterate on your ideas. Putting this planning in place ensures that you are making the right choices for your users and company over time, and ensures you do not lose sight of the end goal you have set.