• Experience and Design


by by Nortal HQ

Bringing innovation to design prototypes

In one of our earlier articles Helen Kokk, our User Experience and Service Design Lead, talked about using a design-based approach in projects. This time around, she gives details regarding how to take that approach and make it even better!

The aim of a design-based approach is to deliver a clickable prototype with the look and feel of a final product within 2 – 3 days before writing a project proposal or inviting bidders.

This process allows the client to thoroughly think through what they want the end product to be. In this article, we’ll go through the first four stages of design work as Nortal defines them:

  1. Problem Validation
  2. User Research
  3. Design Thinking
  4. MVP Planning

All this is done in a hackathon fashion, with fast iterations, to arrive with a final product that works. Works in the sense that the client can click and see different actions and the paths that these lead to.

This design-based approach has been proven to work with many of our clients, but it has its drawbacks and it can be improved upon.

Design-based approach on steroids

One of the main problems with this approach is that the kinds of ideas and concepts borne out during a hackathon depend largely on the people who are present. It’s not necessarily about the quality or skills of the people, but rather the kinds of ideas and perspectives they have to offer.

When you gather a group of designers and product people who have years of experience in designing travel apps and give them a task to design a new travel app, there’s a risk that the ideas they offer will be similar to the ones they are accustomed to and have used before.

This is only natural. These people know how to design travel apps; they have years of experience and have tested many variations. They know what works, and this knowing-what-works attitude can potentially be a problem.

If I already know what the end result should look like, why bother taking on the extra work of trying to come up with new and/or novel solutions?

This kind of thinking leads to projects and solutions that are bland and function the same — not what clients are looking for!

To get around that, the solution is surprisingly easy — involve designers with diverse backgrounds. And not only designers but also product people, developers, etc. The more varied the people and their backgrounds, the better the chances of coming up with something innovative and new.

In the early stages, it’s the diversity and the number of ideas that count most, not the “quality” of them per se.

If we’re looking to create something different, something innovative, we have to involve people with different stories and experiences, with different backgrounds and from different fields and sectors
Helen Kokk

Achieving diversity of ideas

Designers from different backgrounds see and understand things differently, and this difference is often the missing “magic.”

As an example, Helen brings up the use of labels and the contrast between online ticket sales environments and online self-service environments.

In most ticket sales environments, written-out labels are almost non-existent. Instead, it’s widespread practice to convey the same message via graphical elements and icons. By contrast, most online self-service environments rely heavily on written labels to guide customers.

It seems like such a small change, but when you consider labels can take up to 50% of screen real estate on mobile devices, you start to understand the huge difference this small change can make.

Want to create real user experience innovation in self-service environments? Include a designer with experience in tickets sales, and you have the potential to create real disruption.

Another example of this innovative approach is created by Fantasy. They reimagined what an airline website could look and feel like in the future:

Final Thoughts

The diversity of design and user experience ideas is not hard to achieve on its own; design teams simply need to contain people with a wide range of experiences working on different projects.

The complexity comes from understanding that your design team is missing this diversity of ideas in the first place.

Here at Nortal, we have worked with many clients, in hackathon fashion and design sprints, to quickly develop new ideas and bring them to life. Examples of this include our seamless healthcare experience and a LinkedIn-style platform for bio-oil suppliers.

This article is based on an interview conducted with Helen Kokk.

Helen Kokk

Helen Kokk

Partner and Creative Lead

Helen Kokk, User Experience and Service Design Lead at Nortal, has almost 15 years of experience with user experience and user interface design. She’s passionate about entrepreneurship, branding and identity. She would be happy to help you rethink the UI and UX for your services.

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