The overview, for those who just want to get to the point or are short on time.
- Ideation: Paper & Whiteboards
- Digital Product Design: Sketch & Adobe Xd
- Tangible Product Design: Adobe Illustrator
- Prototyping & Collaboration: InVision
- Asset Hand-Off: Zeplin & Dropbox
- Research: this is a mixed process with many tools right now.
- Project Communication: heavy reliance on email, phone, and in-person for client communication; Slack for in-house chatter.
- Analytics: this, too, is a mix of what our clients already use, since they – not us – are the product owners.
UX, UI, and product development are at the heart of the great work we produce. Great work is a product of great process, which require dependable tools.
Ideation tools do not need to be software. In fact, for ideation, one should just need to capture ideas. This is why the tried-and-true tools of paper and whiteboards are the anvils on which we pound out the ideation phase for any product.
Design is an exciting space to be in because there is always fierce competition between tools. When we design for digital products, Sketch has been the best in class tool to use, but Adobe’s Xd is becoming harder and harder to ignore with its growing feature set, and asset hand-off flow that makes devs happy.
Then, when designing for tangible products, Adobe Illustrator has firmly unseated Photoshop as the best tool because of how Illustrator allows us to create a single set of assets that can be used for the blurred uses of e-comm and in-store needs.
Digital product development requires a lot of on-screen prototyping and collaboration. The old days of providing feedback via email or a call for a website or app were clunky at best. InVision allows on-screen prototyping and pinpointed commenting for efficient feedback. It’s hard to beat InVision right now.
When it’s time to hand-off the assets for products, Zeplin has been our trusted tool for digital products. It has helped devs and designers to stay in each other’s respective lanes and thrive doing so. The fact that Zeplin ends up creating an asset library for brands solidifies its dominance for the crucial hand-off phase.
Look, we don’t have every duck in a row. Some parts of our process are in flux and show no signs of settling down any time soon.
Research is Exhibit-A of this.
It would ideal to have thorough user research as the cornerstone of all we are hired to do, but that’s not what reality looks like.
Often we work with research under a tight time constraint or based on past product performance for a replacement product. In some cases, a production schedule out of our hands determines no research at all.
This underscores the importance of having a product focused team like Brand Shepherd guiding the way. We can tap a lot of past experiences to help fill in research gaps and make logical, informed decisions.
Project communication is something that the tech gurus foretold would be settled by now. They heralded the end of email all through the early/mid-2010s, yet email did not budge. Email actually grew in its use instead.
So what we do is use email for communication with clients and vendors that needs to be documented. We then use Slack for all Brand Shepherd team communication.
And phone calls are still sometimes the most efficient tool of all when a lot needs to get done in a short amount of time. But with calls, 3-people max. More than 3 and it’s a conference call where a status report is the loftiest outcome one can hope for.
Last is the use of analytics. This is last because we are not always kept in the loop on analytics after our work is done. The analytics component is often given to the PM and dev team while we move on to the next product.
Then, as the PM distills actionable data from the analytics, we are brought back in to make edits and enhancements to products.
We prefer it this way. Our efforts can stay focused on UX and UI for products and the analytics are used to amplify the quality of our work.
That is the lay of the land for the tools we are using for UX, UI, and product development.
One thing we know: these tools will change. As they do, we will continue to be diligent in determining what is worth our and our client’s investment.