How to create kick-ass designs…even with very little time and money

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On December 11th, Kathleen Kneram gave the talk entitled "How to create kick-ass designs…even with very little time and money." …

On December 11th, Kathleen Kneram gave the talk entitled "How to create kick-ass designs…even with very little time and money."

Many designers miss the opportunity to design the best possible solution because they don’t take the time to make connections and listen to the experts within their reach. From the beginning, designers need to build relationships with business and technology partners and strive to work in a more integrated, interactive, and, dare I say, more agile approach. Only by effectively working with a small group of experts from the user community, business visionaries, and technical innovators can you build the best possible solution.

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  • I understand that many of you have trouble getting the budget and finding the time for design activities on your projects. I can tell you that I’ve been there. I was a “one woman show” on projects when I started at a large insurance company. I did soup to nuts – observed users in call centers, helped write use cases, designed wireframes, usability tested by dragging my desktop computer in my minivan to local offices, created training, conducted training in the field. I didn’t have permission or any budget for anyone beside me. Consulting is no walk in the park either - clients are resistant, don’t want to spend the time or money, ….but I was tenacious. Even at now, budgets are tight, not enough people or time.I’m here to tell you that you that can still be successful! It is not large budgets, oodles of time, and large teams that will make you successful.
  • Of course you need to have a basic process in mind, but ANYONE can read a book and rattle off a process. If one more agency comes in and touts their process…Use process to your advantage – process provides you with the time to learn, research, critical thinking, analyzeUse the outcomes to communicate themes, and more softly deliver the tough messagesex: Power component co: Personas are a more pleasant way to deliver the tough message, “you were really wrong about your users” BTW - Concept designs before detailed – very helpful
  • I have led large design teams and I’ve seen so many designers – good and bad, and I can tell you what makes the best ones Ability to connect with people – people want to talk to you 1:1Discover underlying drivers – bonuses, careers on the line, hidden agendas, what failed beforeHave Empathy - Your really need to understand the user’s world, do contextual inquiry whenever possibleEx: Risk ManagementDashboard – hidden drivers: the real reason we are building this dashboard… there is usually a hidden agenda
  • vs. the one you are told exists Figure out what you don’t know, dig for itAsk open ended questions and REALLY listenReject conventional wisdom Don’t get hung up on current structure – avoid even learning it!Figure out what the user is really trying to accomplishApply critical thinking – not always obvious, don’t take everything at face valueDo your homework; be quick on the uptakeBe a bit passionate, obsessive about itEx: Claims system, Executive dashboard
  • Don’t walk into meetings with a 100 page visio fileTake pride in your craft, demonstrate your point, tell a storyPaint a picture of the future: before & after Describe likely user reaction to a proposed designRaise heck when necessary – “attack of the wheelie white board”
  • Best models are innate, not forcedI have discovered the best by inversing the processOptions help: demonstrate good & bad modelsCombine the best features, evolveModels that rocked worlds: First report of insurance claim – follow how people tell story, flexible entry, run engine create claims at the endEngineers are different now…product selector Guidance: Lead with the answer, 3 levers
  • Sweat the details – they matterSimple is really, really hardRevisit, revise BUT know when to put down the paint brush
  • We all have constraints, the truly great designer still creates a brilliant design within them.” Laura vs. Dorothy Collaboration is good to a point…You need to put the stake in the groundStick to your guns when you KNOW you are rightPush limits, but be realistic – incremental improvements can also help immenselyCreate north star, and path to get there Like renovating an old house – have a high-level idea where you want to be in 3 years, but focus on logical phases that build toward it, ----tweak vision as you move forward.
  • Use proxies: salespeople, helpdesk, and the Friends & Family PlanUse simple prototypes for testing, go to the users – Powerpoint can be your friendStalking, in a good way… informal setting for valuable 1:1 time Jim as “greeter” in the cafeteria every morning - Get coffee togetherBring them lunchWalk with someone to next meeting


  • 1. How to create kick-ass designs… even with very little time and money Kathleen Kneram December 11, 2013
  • 2. Process alone will not result in a great design “Six Sigma Black Belt Ultra… with the groin branding to prove it.”
  • 3. Be a Good Mensch People can sense when you don’t have their interests in mind
  • 4. Discover the REAL problem "Abiding Spirits" by Suzan Lovett
  • 5. Tell a story Example Scenario: View Latest Research Ratings Advisory ! Detail page contains assorted links and tabs; content not on one page ! Related Research tab shows a seemingly random list of assorted documents ! Research is split across a number of ill-defined doc types, published at different times ! Goes to competitor’s site first, because competitor’s site is easier to use “I’ll go to (a competitor’s site) first, then I’ll go to (the company’s) if I have the time…” — Director, Global Ratings Advisory User Issues Business Impacts  Research content is inconsistent  Hampers deepening of relationships  Related research functions are ineffective  Sites are difficult for users to understand and navigate with established clients  Detracts from the company’s reputation as an authoritative source of high quality info
  • 6. It’s all about the model
  • 7. Once the model is spot on… Sweat the details – they matter Simple is really, really hard Revisit, revise BUT know when to put down the paint brush
  • 8. “The best design is the one that gets built,” Jared Spool
  • 9. No time, fancy labs, or budget?