At Heritage, our small team has developed a detailed design process. Not all of these steps are required for each project, so I try to think of our design process as "tools in a toolbelt" that I can pull from as needed. While they are listed here in a certain order, many of these parts of the process require revisiting during a project. There are a few key steps that cannot be skipped or reordered, however, and each step must be handled intentionally and with care.
The most important step I take when I start on a project is to drop my ego entirely. At Heritage, the users I design new tools for are world experts on their respective categories. In order to design the most effective software, I need to learn about their processes and their unique needs. The best solutions result when I combine my objective observations, empathy for the users, and sharp design instincts.
This is the best opportunity for the designer to set the tone for the project. This meeting should include explaining the Design Process, determining the best communication style that will be most effective with stakeholders, setting expectations, determining goals, and nailing down the scope of a project.
Observing the workflow of end users as they work naturally will shape the end solution. Designers benefit immensely seeing firsthand every post it note stuck to computer screens, every spreadsheet that holds isolated, stale data, and every time users have to run across the room to grab a sheet of paper from a pile on an unused desk. An active designer will jump at the opportunity to question the employee's process with a sense of childlike wonder, and attempt to identify cumbersome processes that can be digitized or automated for users. While some processes must remain manual, there are ways a designer can take the "guesswork" off of their plate, and create a product that works seamlessly alongside their manual work.
This stage is for fleshing out use cases, recognizing patterns, diagramming the business rules and fleshing out wireframes.
Since much of the Ideation process happens isolated from other team members, the next step is getting everyone back on the same page, and ensuring the designs are airtight.
Alpha testing is done with developers, designers and project managers.
This is testing done in QA with the users and stakeholders.
Necessary training should be held, and the stakeholder should make sure that all parties affected by the new product are aware of the launch.
Designers should follow up and be aware of the impact the solution has had. They should also follow up about adoption and any issues users are having.