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Design is a multidimensional concept that evolves based on different perspectives and the context within which it is applied. Design encompasses everything we encounter and involves making intentional choices considering purpose, value, empathy, and importantly the experience it delivers. To that end, engineering also plays a vital role in improving user experience. Design and engineering contribute to essential functions and strengths that complement each other. Collaboration and synergy between these disciplines is crucial in today’s fast-paced, agile work environment.
While designers focus on aesthetics and experiences, engineers focus on technology and features. Designers work on creating user navigation and process flow of the design. On the other hand, engineers focus on the reliability of the product, scalability to cater to a wider audience, and ability to grow in terms of product features.
GS Lab | GAVS recently conducted a webinar as part of a series on Digital Product Engineering, “Everything Products Episode 3: Design & Engineering – The Inseparable Duo of Digital Product Engineering”, empaneled by Ms. Riya Thosar, Director – Product Design, SAP, and Ms. Manisha Deshpande, Director – Engineering, Unbox – The UX Competency at GS Lab | GAVS. The webinar was moderated by Mandar Gadre, Director – Engineering at GS Lab | GAVS.
Design goes beyond appearances and must be grounded in purpose in a user-centered context. If design lacks empathy, it loses its essence, for it’s the empathy that bridges the gap between intention and impact. Design is also pivotal in achieving a great Return on Investment (RoI) by driving innovation that aligns with specific domains, user behavior, and business needs.
To achieve a strong RoI, designers must go beyond aesthetic considerations and delve into the intricacies of specific domains and the stage of the product life cycle. For projects starting from scratch, thorough research, competitive analysis, and a deep understanding of user needs are crucial. As the project evolves, redesigns and optimizations might be necessary, involving aspects like branding, theming, visual enhancements, and improved user journeys. Additionally, as products evolve and expand, strategies for standardization and scalability become vital.
By understanding users’ changing behavior, needs, and cultural shifts, designers can develop innovative solutions that align with user expectations.
What is Design Thinking?
Modern product development emphasizes collaboration and agility, demanding that designers and engineers work closely throughout the process. Design thinking frameworks guide this collaboration, allowing effective engagement, milestone approvals, and seamless alignment. While there might be challenges, understanding the constraints and technical considerations minimizes conflicts, fostering productive discussions.
The design thinking framework serves as a valuable guide for this collaborative process. It helps designers engage stakeholders, secure approvals, and reach milestones effectively. By asking the right questions, designers can highlight user needs and find creative ways to address them while keeping business success in mind. Though designers may not have all the answers, they can assemble the right people to address critical questions. This collaborative approach minimizes conflicts, fostering healthy discussions and creative solutions.
Building a Design Team
The design team in the services industry consists of individuals with various backgrounds and skills, including researchers, interaction designers, visual designers, and hybrid or full stack designers. The team composition can also include artists with good knowledge of design and psychology and professionals transitioning from engineering roles, to bring both technical insights and user-centered perspectives. This mix of team members allows for a comprehensive approach to problem solving. They collaborate to ensure a positive and intuitive user experience. A passion to understand the user and empathize with their needs, and an awareness of behavioral psychology are key.
Designers often play the role of facilitators within the design team, bringing together stakeholders from engineering, product management, research, and more. The key is involving all parties from the beginning to align goals, avoiding later conflicts or misalignments. This proactive approach ensures that user needs, business goals, and technological possibilities are all considered holistically.
How Do Design and Engineering Teams Work Together
Design and engineering are two essential pillars in the product development process. Collaboration between the two is critical, facilitated by the understanding that they fulfill unique functions that complement each other. Designers add unique value by balancing user empathy, business empathy, and aligning user pain points with business goals. Engineers, in turn, bring technical insights and constraints to the table. Together, they navigate the intersection of user satisfaction, technological feasibility, and business success. Stakeholder empathy is equally crucial for both these disciplines.
To optimize collaboration, designers should familiarize themselves with technical aspects like UI frameworks and component libraries. The convergence of business objectives, user needs, and technical capabilities drives innovation. As the role of a UX designer is no longer confined to screen design, the innovation process unfolds in three steps – understanding why before defining goals, brainstorming new ideas to address the goals, narrowing down on the ideas, and finding ways to visualize them. Similarly, engineers should grasp business constraints, timelines, and the importance of user-centric experiences. By going beyond their core roles and fostering a holistic understanding, designers and engineers contribute to creating usable and lovable products.
While healthy arguments might arise, especially when discussing technical feasibility, empathy helps designers understand engineering constraints. This understanding paves the way for productive conversations, finding alternative solutions that satisfy user needs within the boundaries of technical feasibility. Designers can effectively advocate for user-centric solutions by considering multiple perspectives, research outcomes, and by explaining their own viewpoints.
Role of AI/ML in Design
The characteristics of an AI led solution should mirror human traits – trustworthiness, dependability, and ethical behavior. Designers should focus on translating these human characteristics into digital guidelines. The practical application of these concepts differ across domains.
In healthcare, for instance, it is vital to prioritize responsiveness, data security, and user control. Fintech demands transparency, trust, and security. Applications tailored for each domain showcase the adaptability of ethical AI principles. Similarly, collaboration with content writers or technical writers, especially for conversational AI, prove essential in the AI design process. It is important for designers to understand the design interventions needed, and the pros and cons of new trends and technologies.
As someone said, creativity cannot be outsourced. The concept of Human in Loop is going to be there. Important questions to first get answers for: How are we leveraging AI? Is it used to make things simpler or to boost productivity? In what situations can AI be leveraged? How can we be ready to make such decisions? How do we achieve technology-powered human-centric designs? Are we able to provide direction to create different outcomes?
For example, AI can be used for repeatable patterns, recommendations, insights, etc. Even with loads of AI recommendations, the end goal can only be achieved if there is user focus. Leveraging AI as a technology and aligning to AI products is important to thrive in the AI era.
This blog is a gist of the webinar. Here, you can watch the entire discussion. GS Lab | GAVS offers various UX design services that help enhance and craft end user experiences using cutting-edge technologies and contemporary design principles. Our approach revolves around prioritizing users and integrating their needs into every facet of our design. This creates immersive, user-friendly experiences that significantly boost product acceptance and RoI. To learn more, please visit https://www.gslab.com/user-experience-design/.