ARTICLE: Trevor Minton

Daily Design Reviews: An evolved design review process fit for the complexity of EdTech products

The design review process is an important part of any product design and development cycle. It’s common for design reviews to occur infrequently, usually at the end of each phase of the development process. And they tend to have a pretty set format, too.

You probably already have a mental image of what happens – as design teams complete a new round of work, they offer up their recommended solutions in a formal presentation to internal teams and stakeholders and then wait to receive feedback.

There’s still value in this tried-and-true method, but what happens when your product development process needs to become more iterative, agile, and responsive? That’s exactly what’s happening in the EdTech space, with an increasingly competitive field and products that are only growing in complexity.

At Openfield, we found that the same old design review process didn’t quite fit the bill anymore. Instead of formal, infrequent design reviews, we needed to develop a design feedback loop that was as agile and iterative as the development process itself had become. And that’s how we landed on a system of daily design reviews.

The Evolution of Openfield’s Design Review Process Allows Our Team to Move Faster in the Face of Growing Complexity.

Our design review process used to be similar to the old-school approach we already described. We’d have a designer (or team of designers) working on a design problem, often at a conceptually high level. They’d chip away at the problem on their own, sometimes for weeks at a time. When they arrived at a solution, they would put together an internal review. The whole thing was very formal, with “finished” work up on a wall or a screen. The purpose of these reviews was to offer critical feedback, of course, but in practice the process was more of a presentation than a collaboration.

The Challenge:

The problem is that these infrequent, formal reviews weren’t as helpful when it came to working through increasingly complex products. That’s because the problems that individual designers are tasked with solving often happen at the “micro” level. Each design team might be working on an individual issue or unique feature set, but these individual solutions almost always have an impact on another area of the product, and vice-versa.

The Solution:

At Openfield, we found that shifting to daily design reviews went a long way toward combating this problem by giving designers a way to break out of their silos and collaborate more flexibly and frequently. This has allowed our designers to quickly and efficiently gather feedback and work through issues as they arise. Not only does this mean that our team members are constantly learning from each other, but it also helps our designers connect the dots between their own work and that of other teams. With this process, fewer communication bubbles arise, and key details stay top of mind rather than falling through the cracks.

Daily Design Reviews: How it Works

If you’re wondering how an extra meeting every day can be feasible for your already-over-burdened product team, we feel you. But our experience shows that a design team that’s armed with smart insights and input will be highly productive the rest of the day. Daily design reviews don’t have to consume a lot of time. In fact, they should be tightly managed to wrap up within 45 minutes. 

During this time, individual design reviews can be scheduled as needed in 15-minute increments. Each designer can schedule a review at any time for 15, 30, or 45 minutes, depending on the complexity of the design problem. They also have the agency to invite the team members whose perspectives are most needed, which might include some team members with an intimate understanding of the problem and others who are new to the problem and therefore able to bring a fresh perspective.

It’s really that simple. And we’ve found that it’s a small investment with an outsized return.

The Benefits of Daily Design Reviews

Whether or not you work with an agency like Openfield, daily design reviews can benefit your EdTech team in many ways. These daily sessions:

  • Foster creative collaboration. Daily design reviews bring designers together in a way that leverages the full power of a design team in quick, effective bursts.
  • Increase productivity. Starting the day off with design reviews pays productivity dividends because it allows designers to devote the rest of their day to project work. And you know they’re more likely to be headed in the right direction thanks to the daily collaborative troubleshooting that shapes the overall design process.  
  • Reduce dependency issues. Complex products typically have a slew of interdependent elements that create dependencies. Daily design reviews ensure that these dependencies are properly surfaced and planned around. This saves time and money and leads to a better user experience out of the gate.
  • Lead to smarter design solutions. If you need to have surgery, you probably want your surgeon to consult with her colleagues to ensure she’s got all the information needed to select the best course of action. The same goes for your team of designers. Daily design reviews create built-in opportunities for designers to harness the expertise of the larger team. When this happens, the product always wins.
  • Help teams grow in their expertise. Daily design reviews accelerate the growth of a team’s expertise, critical thinking, and presentation skills, which is especially beneficial for new and less experienced members of the team. This leads to smarter thinking overall.

For these reasons, daily design reviews are the new gold standard for Openfield. And they probably should be for you, too.

Want to implement the Daily Design Review with your team? Get access to the spreadsheet we use to schedule and run the meetings.

 

  • Photo of Trevor Minton
    Trevor Minton

    As Vice President of Product Experience at Openfield, Trevor collaborates closely with our clients and ensures that our team delivers world-class design thinking and execution that results in strong emotional connections between users and digital products. He is passionately enthusiastic about music, local and international soccer, automotive design and racing, and getting under the hood of his old but new-to-him BMW to keep it on the road for another couple of decades.

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