How do you start an app design project? By setting up some artboards or putting together a design system?
Most app designers start a project by reading over the requirements or user stories, then they jump straight into sketch.
This is the reality.
The fact is, the majority of app design projects don’t have an extensive UX research phase. Whether it be due to budget constraints or just impatient designers eager to jump on the tools, UX research is often seen as an inconvenience, a luxury or not considered at all.
However, any designer who has done in-depth UX research knows how important it is to an app’s success.
So, what do you do if there’s no budget (or patience) for UX research?
I suggest designers use what I call a ‘Design Success Strategy’.
So what is a Design Success Strategy?
I define it as:
‘A plan to achieve the business objectives of the app through design’.
It will help you, the designer, to quickly set your project up for success before design begins. In this article I’ll explain what one is and how to make one.
Almost every app has a business objective. Whether it’s to make money, increase brand awareness, encourage customer loyalty or something else, that objective should be top-of-mind for you as the app designer. The best way to ensure this is by developing a Design Success Strategy before moving a single pixel. Developing one is easy. Having one will also ensure alignment of objectives between the app designer, app developer and the client.
How to develop a Design Success Strategy
The simplest way I find is to start with KPI’s and work backwards from there. For those who don’t know, KPI stands for key performance indicator. KPIs are universally used to measure performance, usually of people or staff. Essentially a KPI is a way to measure performance against a clear objective. In this case we are referring to the performance of the app you are designing.
For the sake of this exercise, the terms ‘KPI’ and ‘business objective’ will be interchangeable and mean the same thing.
Start by listing off the business objectives of the app. There may only be a few and generally the fewer KPIs the easier they’ll be to achieve. If there are more objectives this is also fine but even more reason for the app designer to go into it with a plan.
Write your KPIs as success statements.
‘The success of the app will be measured by how many users complete the account sign up process.’
This KPI is all about growing a user base.
Another might be:
‘The success of the app will be measured by how many products the user purchases per order.’
This KPI is not about measuring the frequency of orders but instead the quantity of products they purchase in each order.
Now, if you are wondering what the point of listing off these objectives is, let me explain.
Once you have a comprehensive set of objectives, you can use them to test any and every design decision you make moving forward.
For example, when designing your user signup process and you are wondering whether to add email validation, quickly test it against your business objectives by asking “will adding this help or hinder each of my business objectives?”.
If ‘The success of the app will be measured by how many users complete the account sign up process.’ then adding email validation is an annoying extra step for users which will probably be a hindrance to that KPI. However, if the KPI was ‘The success of the app will be measured by how many verified email addresses it can collect’ adding email validation would likely be a help to that objective.
Adding Proactive Measures
So, you can see how having your business objectives written out can really help you when making design decisions. But, simply using them as tests does not make for a complete Design Success Strategy. You also need to add some proactive measures.
Once you have a list of KPIs, you then need to come up with some ways you might be able to help achieve each goal. List them as simple dot points under each KPI.
“The success of the app will be measured by how many users complete the account sign up process.’
Here are some proactive measures you could include as app designer, to encourage users to complete the account sign up process:
- Keep the process quick and simple
- Break the process down into small bite sized chunks
- Show the user value before asking them to create an account
- Separate onboarding and account creation into two distinct processes
- Use mobile phone number validation rather than asking them to create and remember a password
Once you’ve listed off all of the proactive measures you can think of for each objective or KPI, you don’t have to then go implement each and every strategy. But, you’ll find it is extremely useful to have them there for reference. They will help keep you focused on the business objectives of the app and save you time in the decision making process.
Any time you think of new proactive measures, add them to the Design Success Strategy. It should be a constantly evolving document.
So, when there’s no time, budget or desire to do extensive UX research, put together a simple Design Success Strategy to make sure your design achieves the business objectives of the app.
You can download my
Now feel free to jump into Sketch 🙂
Founder and Creative Director at DreamWalk
Joseph is an award-winning app designer with over 100 Apple features to his name and 89 No. 1 App Store chart rankings. He is founder of Melbourne app development Agency DreamWalk and has written for Smart Company, Inside Small Business and B&T Weekly.
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