How to effectively manage complex design projects

Six steps to structure and simplify your work in the future

Kevin Dukkon

Design Lead

by Kevin Dukkon

How to effectively manage complex design projects

The larger the project, the higher the chances of being overwhelmed by a white canvas and the racing thoughts of handling complex projects. If you don’t do a good job, you might miss your deadline, lose the client, and maybe even your reputation.

While this can seem like a nightmare, six steps on how to easily handle complex projects in the future will have you conquering your next large-scale projects in a breeze.

We are going to explain these steps based on our customer, FRIE, who wanted to develop a business management tool to keep track of employees, projects, and goals. If you are interested in more information, check out our case study.

Step One: The customer’s product vision

We started with the customer telling us about all ideas and their vision for the project. To better understand these, as well as the product, the customer sent us a briefing in advance. In it, they described their vision of an organizational tool that should include various functions, such as project and team management to manage teams, individuals, and their tasks as seamlessly as possible.

The client express they have struggled to find a product in the market that combines these tools. Therefore, our design needs to be as lightweight as possible and the UX needs to make it as easy as possible for the user to operate.

The first step is hence to thoroughly understand what your client has in mind and what you will need to create over the next few days, weeks or months.

Step Two: Communication setup

In the next step of the process, we advise that you define some basic conditions. This can include, for example, when and how the customer gives feedback. We recommended that you exchange ideas with the client in a weekly update call, sending work progress in advance as a PDF or Figma file and walking through the design once again during the call. This is done to explain our approach for every UX element and to discuss alternative design solutions, as well as for the client to remain updated on the status of the project.

Step Three: The big breakdown

Once we knew what our client expected, we started to break down the big project with its various functions into smaller pieces called features. This entailed writing feature-based user stories and aiming to finish a feature each week. A feature is used to describe the functionality that should deliver business value, and the user story ultimately shows what the user wants to do with the product and why. We use a bit of Scrum, on which you can find more information here.

To give you an idea of what this looked like, here are some user inputs from the feature “Survey”:

  • Feature: A user should be able to create and conduct a survey about a particular topic. This will allow the company to evaluate the topic and you can take action based on valuable user feedback.*

User stories:

→ As a manager, I want to create a survey with open questions so that I can ask my colleagues about their opinion.

→ Aa manager, I want to see the results of a survey so that I can evaluate the results.

→ As a manager, I want to schedule a survey so that the survey is sent to every employee every three months.

Check out our article about user stories to get a better understanding of what makes them so effective in app development, and to learn about the INVEST-checklist and the three C’s of good user stories.

Perhaps you’re wondering why we place such emphasis on writing everything down in detail. Trust us, this work and this step are crucial when it comes to dealing with complex design projects. Once you know exactly what flows there are, what the user should be able to do and how, on which screen they enter and leave a flow, what he needs to do, etc., you know that you have understood the product or discover holes in your design.

By the time you’ve written everything down, most of the work is already done. Why? Because now you “only” need to design the screens. Besides, this detailed list ensures that you don’t forget or overlook anything along the way. A detailed discussion about the different user stories with your client also helps you to take care of all product-related insights.

Step Four: Realistic and effective estimation

Now you can estimate the effort (we recommend planning some buffer for research and feedback), assign deadlines to each ticket, and define an order in which the tickets will be processed, together with the customer. This can be beneficial for both you and your client, as you know what needs to be done by when and they know when to expect results.

Step five: Research

The next step, of course, is working on a feature and the associated user stories. This is also the latest stage to begin design-related research. To supplement the user research, we also conduct research on competitors’ solutions. How did they solve the issue? Is their solution successful? Why or why not?

Is there a best practice? If we are talking about mobile applications, we always align ourselves with the Apple Human Interface Guidelines or Material Design Guidelines for guidance to fulfill the respective App store requirements.

It may also be worthwhile to talk to end-users, to comprehensively understand user issues with this or similar products, or why they may be enthusiastic in supporting a product.

Step Six: Start the work

So far you did not design at all, but rather spent a lot of time in preparation to work effectively and efficiently. All that work will pay off now as you put all the info together in the final step, creating the user interface design.

When you label your artboard, you can, for example, use the ticket number and the step you are currently depicting: Ticket 327, Survey creation, Step 2.

Otherwise, you should have all the information you need to create beautiful screens.

At Fintory, this is how we work. Of course, there are small variations from project to project and you can certainly do it differently. The steps described above have worked well for us, working on complex projects that can span several weeks and months. If you also like to know what tools we are using to realize those projects, please have a look here.

If you have any questions about how we work with these tools or you have a brilliant idea and you want to convert it into a simple and beautiful product, contact us. We will follow a strategic approach to design and develop your idea along with a team of experts who has experience working with global brands and innovative startups. Please get in touch with full confidence and we are pretty sure to find a way to support you and your project.

Kevin Dukkon

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Kevin Dukkon

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