So I have had the opportunity to work in various areas in design and have gotten to work on a wide range of projects. Each project had been requested and proposals have been written and work had been approved to get started. And then the work starts and the designers design and the clients try to get more of what they want, and the company tries to get paid more for giving it to them and everything needs to be on a tight and rigorous deadline. This is how every company I have worked for has operated and rightfully so. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that at some point the company feels the need to lay down some approach guidelines, or document “their” process.

Not sure why we all need a “competitive advantage” approach when we all generally agree on how we get there. A las… this is where everyone describes what should happen to encompass every possible piece of work. The designers aurgue about what comes first and when does the “inspiration phase” turns into the “iteration phase.” Everyone pulls out their own stack of buzzwords to throw on the growing pile of ego in the middle of the studio. And all this carries on until people are absolutely positive that they have the ultimate process structure and everyone is united under one flag, ready to move forward and crush the competition.

Sure, I probably laid on the sarcasm pretty thick, but the whole idea that a company needs one overarching approach to work is kinda silly. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my current employer and have enjoyed working for my past employers, but I feel that i keep seeing the same thing rewritten and repackaged with minor tweaks about the process of UX or design thinking. The point is we have two concerns when it comes to design, business goals and user goals. That is it. How we accomplish those goals are completely up to the constraints that are provided by those goals.

For example wouldn’t go about designing a fall line of t-shirts and branding for a skate brand the same way that I would approach branding a tech start-up that is trying to gain funding. They have different goals and different audiences and different business goals. One Company is trying to make a product on shoe string budget while trying to get as many of their friends to buy in as possible and the other is selling shirts. Although I am obviously joking here, You can see that even to start ups that are asking for the same exact thing might need different processes and approached depending on how mature they are, current market conditions, experience of management, etc. Again by looking into what the company is trying to accomplish and who they are trying to accomplish it for will guide you through the design process and also help you define what success will look like.

Well that is a nice sounding vague idea that leads us back to the problem we started with, thanks Steve! Okay it is vague when you just blurt it out and leave it there floating around the room like a bad smell. So lets use an example to get us thinking about how to apply business goals and user goals in defining a process.

I had the pleasure to help assist with a consultation workshop with a robotics company. This company was funded by a large corporation and its main business goal was to produces robots to help with automation in factories. However, they wanted to get into home robotics automation and wanted some help with understanding where areas of opportunity are. Before the session started, I was able to see their current project as they transition in to this space. They had these wonderful machines that could drive them selves around objects and pick up tennis balls and put them in baskets. It was great until I realized how much money, time and energy had gone in to those projects. As the workshop started, we found out our first piece of information, the business goal.

We want to make a product that will assist in light house cleaning and pick up of clutter.

Awesome! half way there! Now for the audience. This takes a bit more though because sometimes clients think that they are serving one person when in reality they are mistaken. In order to find the audience we talked about the specifics of the business goal.

Questions like what does clean mean? or What area will this robot serve? the whole house, or just a certain area that guest frequent. We realized that what most people with deem as “picked up” or “clean” would depend on a custom set of requirements from the user, and where people wanted things to be placed would also differ for each house. So given this information we would need to choose from two emerging audiences.

The first audience is what the client is indirectly asking for. These are people that are comfortable with a robot roaming around their house freely that would be programed by the user to do certain tasks. To me, this audience seems very limited and unlikely that enough of this audience would buy in to sustain the program.

The second audience is the busy house hold that they client is envisioning. They have messes and leave objects around the room and don’t have time in their schedule to pick things up right away, instead they leave the mess for a later time. I feel the most people can relate to at least part of that statement.

This is a much broader audience, and the one that was suggested to target, but the way that we reach them is to put constraints on the project, I plan to talk more about constraints later. In this case if we had a robot that new one or two tasks in a limited area. For example, a robot that picks dishes off of a counter and washes them for you and puts them into a holding area to be put away. It doesn’t do too much but the value is apparent.

So now that we have both business goals and a well defined audience we can see how doing brainstorms, model making, prototypes, storyboards or whatnot becomes more effective. In fact you might be able to skip a few of those deliverables in order to get to a basic working model. Or on the inverse, you might be able to see valuable features to add, and will need new deliverables to get there.

Again I am not trying to say that preliminary design exercises don’t have value, or that certain deliverables just help to inflate a project and compress deadline. Quite the opposite, But make sure that you keep the two most important goals in mind when moving through a project. In each stage of the design process, you should be able to see how your product succeeds in fulfilling those goals not matter what deliverable or process step you are on.

I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to email me at if you would like to chat more about UX and UI design. Thanks

Written by Steve Erro

I am a designer that is interested in how design, humans, and business interact with one another. I currently live and work in San Diego.

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