The process is not the point

There are two parts to every project…the Process and the Point.

The Process, which gets most of the attention, is the series of steps we go through to do the work. We obsess over the process…should we do wireframes, mockups, prototypes, or code right in HTML? What deliverables do we need to get buy-in? When do we do testing? What kind of testing do we do? Should we do user testing early? Late? When is the best time to get feedback?

We need the process to know what to do next. We need a framework to work with because it helps us get more efficient at what we do. When you’re user testing, for example, you’ll go much farther and get there faster if you have a repeatable process in place. You’ll want a quick way to get users for testing, a quick way to figure out what to test, what tasks to test, and what to do with the results.

While we should constantly tweak our own process, we also discuss it endlessly with others. Are you sure you’re doing user experience design correctly? Are you designing content first? Are you designing in the browser? Are you using lorem ipsum, for the love of Gods? Are you doing A/B testing? Using personas? I’m sure yours aren’t as robust as mine, natch.

And then there is the Point. The problem you’re trying to solve. The thing that isn’t part of a process but is the most important thing you need to focus on as a designer. The thing that, if you happen to solve it, makes the process almost irrelevant. Solve the problem and you’re successful no matter what process you’ve been using.

The point is often what’s different in your project…it’s the thing that you probably don’t have a process for yet (if you did it wouldn’t be a problem!). And you probably can’t talk about the point anyway because you don’t want other people to solve it before you (e.g. your competitors). So we instead talk about the process…

But we should remember not to confuse the two. The process is valuable…it’s a framework for deciding what to do next…and we need that…but it’s merely a means to an end. And whatever you do, don’t let process details distract you from solving your problem in any way possible.

The Process is important…but it’s not the Point.

Published: August 11th, 2011

The What to Wear Daily Newsletter. A super simple daily email with clothing recommendations based on the weather. Remarkably simple and useful. It's free to sign up. Let me know what you think!