1. Embrace challenges
Redesigns aren’t about changing everything in a product. I believe many designers have faced similar challenges: the product has shipped and users are already comfortable using it. Getting them to switch to an entirely new system — one they’d have to spend time learning how to use — takes some convincing in the form of data.
Don’t back out. Embrace the challenges and stand by the users. Do what you can to improve the experience in any possible way without asking people to adopt an entirely new system.
2. Understand the importance of data
The best time to propose redesign ideas is when you have convincing data in hand. Have you ever wondered why your redesign ideas get rejected? Perhaps this feedback sounds familiar to you:
- Our development team doesn’t have the bandwidth for this redesign — they’re way too busy building new features
- Why do we need a redesign? I don’t see any problems.
- Are you sure a redesign is better than what we already have? Is it worth making the investment in time and effort?
Well, redesign projects can be successfully proposed if you understand the importance of data. Without compelling data, don’t expect the naysayers to change their minds.
3. Use data — and make it convincing
To get a redesign project started, you’ll need data and a well-defined set of problems to support your redesign ideas.
For example, I had to convince everyone that we really did need to completely redesign our CRM contacts list view and not just make quick improvements. I got the data by going to our online community and searching for related questions and suggestions for improvement. I categorized them and identified problems, and then I sat down with product managers to go over the findings and my suggestions. Only after I backed up my ideas with data was I able to start the redesign project.
4. Get developers onboard
A redesign can’t happen without developers, so get them involved at the very beginning. I know how exciting it feels to just start drawing out ideas. But wait until you are told that there will be developers assigned to your project. In the past, I have worked on projects that ended up nowhere because I just assumed the leadership was as serious as I was. As a result, this time I had to ensure there will be developers assigned to my project, and have a good understand of which release it is going to be a part of.
Communicate with your leadership to understand where you are and what the scope of your project is. After all, you wouldn’t want to invest on redesign projects without knowing the new changes will be implemented.
5. Visualize ideas
Visualize your redesign ideas and make them understandable to non-designers. For my redesign project, I went through many rounds of sketches in order to define the best idea. Learn more of my design progress at Things you can learn from redesigns.
6. Conduct user tests
Here’s a checklist for user tests:
- Have a prototype ready — doesn’t matter if it’s online or offline, in person or remotely.
- Understand the goals. You need to create moderator guidelines, list out your study goals, and write down the questions you’ll ask.
- Recruit participants. You can’t do user test without participants. Make sure the group of participants match your study criteria (age, roles, web sessions, etc.).
- Pre-test the prototype. To avoid embarrassing moments with participants, pre-test your prototype with colleagues and friends to make sure everything works as expected.
- Analyze data. Don’t forget to analyze all findings with your team to highlight top issues and successes.
- Create a report. A user testing report helps everyone understand your redesign progress. It shows what you’ve achieved and what the next steps are.
You might think the checklist seems too long and that you don’t necessarily need to be in charge of user research work. However, it is valuable to spend some extra time learning and absorbing from your user research team. Because when they are too busy dealing with other important projects, you might need to take over the user research responsibilities and finish up the project on time on your own.
7. Leverage Design Principles
Design struggles can happen during different design phases. For example, I couldn’t make up my mind during design round 2: what should I prioritize — efficiency or clarity?
Based on our design principles (clarity first), I decided to prioritize clarity over efficiency. It meant that I had to make sure users can easily scan and discover information before they’re asked to do any tasks. Users won’t mind extra clicks as long as the system provides accurate feedback.
If you had difficulty making design trade-offs, don’t panic — leverage your design principles. Design principles can vary depending on your product, there are no fixed rules. If your team doesn’t have any principles, check out Design Principles FTW for inspiration.
8. Follow the Development Cycle
You need to be patient and go through the stages of product creation: analysis, design, development, and testing. For example, I validated my redesigns through user testing, users gave great feedback about what we can do to make it even better. I applied what I learned from user testing and iterated.
Every redesign project should follow the development cycle: analyze user data and improve the designs, build the new designs, and test them out again, define and analyze the new findings to plan out the next steps and iterate on designs.
9. Be your own advocate
While working on a project, you may have experienced this not-so-fun scenario: Your design decisions are suddenly no longer in line with what your manager wants. What do you do?
Stand up for yourself. As I mentioned before, use data to back up your ideas and get your team’s support. As designers, our goal shouldn’t just be to make our boss happy — it should be to create a better experience for users and a better product that generates more revenue.
10. Sharing Is Caring
Always summarize your learnings and achievements when you finish a redesign project. I like to share my learning on Medium and believe that they are milestones of my design journeys and will reflect how much more I can grow later on.
If you have ideas, don’t be shy and share them with your team and other designers! Don’t be afraid of being judged! What you’ve learned and achieved might not always interest others, but you might discover more learning and improvement opportunities along the way! So why not?
Stay patient and plan out your journey. Make it easy for everyone on the team to envision how redesigns are going to increase return on investment, and you’ll get everyone on board.