When most software developers have a new idea they go straight to their computer, I turn off my devices and break out the old fashioned notebook. In high school I liked to sketch and draw, and today I use the same markers and pens to kick off the develop process. I prefer this method because when it comes to pleasing the consumer, design always wins.
Much to the chagrin of most development heads I work with, I don’t start with a data model. The first thing I do is craft sketches of the design from a user’s point of view and work backward. After the initial design I dive into functionality, then move to development and discuss what we can realistically make. But in that discussion design always wins.
I started Quore, a hospitality software solution, eight years ago using this design-first approach. Today, we have more than 30,000 users, and the first thing most people remark when they try Quore is its intuitive design. While I’m a firm believer that there must be a balance of beauty and brains when it comes to software design, too often the end user takes a back seat.
Here are four ways to approach new development with a design-first mentality to ensure the end user is top-of-mind:
Going dark is a great way to expand your imagination. By turning off electronics, developers are forced to get creative by drawing and discussing ideas. I believe that distractions kill ideas, so when Quore needed to expand to a new office, I made sure there was a dedicated “static-free” room in the plans. The room is a place for all employees to escape technology and face creativity. Clearing the static is one great way to vehemently pursue a solution to a problem.
Throw out the rulebook
Using graphic design rules, not software design rules, developers can ensure design always wins. As a rule, graphic designers start with what the end user sees first. Graphic designers know that it’s all about perception: people first see shapes, then color, then content. By taking this into account, designers can create products that are intuitive and easy to use. Start by first sketching the product, then add color to bring the visual to life.
Great design takes a careful approach to color choices. Color invokes emotion and has the power to affect behavior. When designing Quore, it was important to incorporate features that thoughtfully take color into consideration. One feature notifies employees with warm colors when they are going into overtime, another when rooms are flagged for maintenance.
Know your customer
A deep understanding of your customers and users industry will always lead to stronger designs, implementations and tests. While recently creating a feature to increase the efficiency of housekeeping departments, we first identified the most crucial tasks of the housekeeper role and built the design from those tasks. The outcome of this exercise yielded a feature that increased adoption among users, increased the efficiency of the department, increased guest satisfaction by ensuring a room is ready upon check-in, and saved money.
Bring in the team
Once you’ve mapped out the entire process from a user’s point of view, it’s time to bring in the whole design team. Encouraging other designers to review your concepts allows you to gauge its feasibility from an engineer’s perspective. These people can help identify what may be frivolous and what makes the most sense functionally. While the concept may require some retooling, outside perspectives usually help narrow the design into the best solution.
When Quore entered the market in 2013, there were other products with similar goals, but most were basic spreadsheet programs. The look and functionality of Quore was a hit with our new customers, and many dropped their existing software solutions and switched to Quore. Quore has always taken a user-first approach, and continues to attract new customers with its intuitive design. Focusing on design and user experience above all else will ensure successful, lasting products.