Designers are said to have a creative and messy process to whom control is harmful. It's strange that sometimes the designers themselves think so.
In recent years, the profession of a designer has changed very quickly, and designers became an important part of the product life cycle. Therefore, they need to be able to adapt to new processes and tools to help their team develop products faster.
In addition to creation of layouts, designers need to be able to work with animated prototypes, study user behavior, know modern technologies, understand a little code and communicate well with other stakeholders. The qualities that a designer should have we mentioned in one of our previous article.
The success of completing tasks is only half of the skill needed. It is also important how the designer manages their workflow.
Learning how to work with tasks and team is not a quick matter; it will require precise manual adjustment for yourself, and if you tune your work for maximum productivity, it will be easier to manage new product creation in the long run.
Very often, designers receive tasks in an abstract form: long letters from customers, handwritten notes or large descriptions of functionality.
The most important thing to be aware of when getting new tasks is to figure out exactly what needs to be done before you jump to Sketch. A clear description of the task allows you to understand what is required from the designer and how to do it effectively.
It is worth approaching projects by breaking them down into small tasks and as detailed as possible by simply describing them, so the work will not seem impregnable and there will be motivation to take on the quick solution of small problems. Small tasks are easier to coordinate with the client. It also reduces the risk of doing something wrong.
Do not be alarmed if it seems that with this method there will be a lot of tasks. For this, there are task managers — they will help you not to lose tasks and prioritize their implementation. Collecting tasks from different sources into one place will be difficult at first, but it will save time in the future. To-do lists are the main tool for an organized designer. Use assignment of tasks to the action being performed (for example, “team call”, “data collection”, “prototyping” or “writing documentation”) or the right person on the team, so that when the time is right, the task is in sight.
Even if the design work is pure creativity, create a separate tag for the appropriate “when there is no inspiration” tasks, to not stop the design process and you have a fallback to switch to another type of work.
With the help of a system of tags and priorities, there will always be tasks that should not be postponed, or those that will wait for their time.
Creating a list of tasks for successful work is not enough — it is important to set a deadline for them and not go beyond. One of the most effective ways to organize a project as a team is to build work with design sprints. Each task is worth evaluating in time and sticking to a plan to complete it. This way you will always know how long each task takes.
When evaluating a task before completing it, additional questions may arise that will slow down the work if originally there were no plans (Example: “For the design of a dark theme, images in PNG will be needed, they will take additional time to process”). Tracking the actual time to complete a task will provide insight into weaknesses if the estimate does not match reality.
Read more about design sprints.
Personal Time Tracking
Many designers are perfectionists, and this desire to make everything perfect plays a cruel joke on them. Trying to avoid the slightest mistakes at a certain stage of the work, they waste time allotted for the next steps. Don't get hung up on the smallest details that aren't vital to the task. You can always polish everything later if needed.
In order for the design sprints to work, you need to constantly check the assessment of the task against the actual time spent on it. A daily plan will help structure your work. Schedule tasks in the evening or in the morning before the start of the work day and write them down in any tool you enjoy working with. All you need to do to be productive is to stick to the plan as closely as possible. It also helps you focus on exactly the things that need to be done here and now.
If you are having trouble with this, we advise you to learn more about time management:
Starting ahead of time structuring your project files can help a lot when scaling up and save the team time later on.
When managing project files, you should establish simple guidelines for structuring team shares. The structure should be clear to all people who interact with it, so that they can easily access the files they need. Work together to sort out common habits and develop a set of rules that you all must follow.
For example, create one shared folder for all your work files inside it, and several folders named by clients. You will also need folders to store data from the client.
For layouts, it is possible not to store all previous versions of designs, but to work in one file using the version control system. This will save you headaches if you need to go back to one of the previous versions. Plant removes the confusion about which file is the final version and always stores each iteration in the design.
Remember that designers don’t work with layouts alone. Often they need access to developers, managers, or clients. Your team should always be able to look at the design.
Cloud storage will partially help solve this problem, but more often it happens that links to files for some reason they become invalid or the space ends at the wrong time. To transfer files, use reliable services (for example Plant’s Public and Private sharing options) which will give you full control over your design. Make it possible for others with the link to download your design or view it online, add comments and share it with other people.
Remember that developers need additional features.
They are not required to use a graphics editor to view font sizes or color palette numbers. Therefore, in order not to slow down the development process, keep the files in the form of pages where all the design specifications are visible.
While designing is a creative process and can involve a bit of layout clutter, keep in mind that if someone else is going to work with your design, don't leave them a bunch of unnamed layers or empty nested groups.
Decide within the team about the naming of the artboards and the layer structure that you should use when creating designs. Don’t forget to invite developers to discuss, with whom you will have to work closely. Using a common language will help when exporting images and naming elements on a live web page.
Pages & Artboards
Here are some guidelines to help you make your designs more consistent and understandable.
- Let pages in Sketch be responsible for content type or product function. For example, these will be Homepage, About, Blog, or Sign up, Onboarding, Checkout pages. Inside each of these pages, you can place a clear structure of nested artboards, united by a common name.
- Any design project needs a page with information about the project: basic information, client, external resources or requirements. This will be useful for new people on the project. Sometimes this page can be combined with a style guide. You will have a ready-made guide containing the guidelines. With this approach, you can quickly create consistent designs even for large projects.
- Within artboards the layers should adhere to a structure that is understandable to another designer. Name the shapes, remove unnecessary copies and empty groups so that the composition of the layers is harmonious.
Symbols, Styles, and Libraries
Modern graphic editors are evolving at a rapid pace and providing designers with new functions for organizing the order within files, and not using them is a crime against team efficiency.
Symbols help not only to unify designs, but also create repeatable components. Pay attention to the design and watch out for those places where it is possible to use ready-made elements: for example, buttons, cards or ready-made blocks: a header, footer or forms.
Color styles can help you avoid confusion with the grayscale that designers use so often. Text styles are great for always using the same font, size, color, letter spacing. Layer styles let you define reusable templates for buttons, fields, and icons.
Have an approved design on hand before you start organizing styles and components so you don't have to rewrite your guidelines halfway through. Remember deadlines and priorities.
The same can be said for libraries — external character sets that can be used inside other files. Using external libraries in a team can be tricky. Make sure to establish rules on how to update the external library, where it is stored, and how to communicate changes so that the team does not have to go back. The design version control system can again help you with this.
Inside the team
As stated above, communication with the team is very often important for the competent organization of work. Therefore, poorly tuned feedback will be a performance bottleneck when creating a product. Of course, part of the communication tasks lies with the managers, but the designer, for their part, must also not let the connections in the project weaken.
Adhere to the general rules for storing documentation and messages. Even if something was discussed verbally, write down the new data in the general correspondence. Be ready to give an answer if you are asked for help and do not be afraid to ask others questions.
Collect all design feedback in one place. This way new team members will be aware of project changes, and you will not lose important notes. The process of getting feedback is a separate topic of conversation. If you're interested in going deeper then check out this article.
2020 has shown that working remotely is an important part of the process that affects our productivity. Many had to change their usual rhythms and create new project and time management techniques to not lose efficiency.
If you also have to work in a remote communication environment, then you can turn its disadvantages into advantages.
Try to create flexible working hours that work for you. Separate personal and work hours to maintain a balance of productivity.
If your coworkers are in a different time zone, use the time to your advantage - get new tasks at the end of their day and give feedback by their morning. Such asynchronous communication will allow you not to coordinate calls at an inconvenient time for everyone and free up your schedule for other things.
More tips for those who work remotely.
In The End
There is no secret knowledge in staying organized. It is important to be aware of your habits and constantly improve them little by little. Take the time to clean up the mess right from the start of each new project, and stay organized throughout.