We often look for the perfect design process for our teams. Yet whatever workflow we use, too often design process takes a life of its own. And before you know it, you are designing in chaos, with last-minute changes and missed deadlines. There is no perfect design process, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our existing ones.
In this newsletter, we look into some little helpers to make your design workflow a bit better — from meetings and design critiques to structuring files in Figma and evaluating the UX maturity of the team. We hope that you’ll find something useful here.
In the Smashing department, we are taking a bit of rest these weeks while getting ready for new adventures later this year:
- SmashingConf Freiburg (Sep 4–6, sold out!, but online tickets still available),
- SmashingConf Design & UX (October 9–12 in Antwerp, Belgium 🍫), our shiny new conference all around design and UX,
- Interface Design Patterns UX Training, with yours truly (Sep 8–Oct 6).
- Accessibility For Designers, with Stéph Walter (Nov 6–15)
- …and many other hands-on online workshops!
Ah, and speaking of design processes! Whatever you choose, don’t follow it rigidly just for the sake of it, and combine bits from all models to make it right for you. As long as it works well for you, it’s right. And that’s the only thing that matters.
1. Designing Better Meetings
Meetings can be utterly exhausting and frustrating, but also valuable and productive. We often think that meetings should be a place of big revelations, but typically there shouldn’t be any surprises in there. The agenda should be sent ahead of time. Also, it’s a good idea to always define a specific meeting type with a custom emoji and color coding for your calendar. These are just some of the guidelines I’ve used to design better meetings.
In “You Can’t Just Cancel 76,500 Hours Of Meetings,” Becky Kane explains why meetings matter and things to keep in mind to increase engagement and productivity. Sarah Godd-Dupont explains how to run effective meetings, and Jasper Polak provides a detailed Meeting Checklist to make sure everything is prepared well ahead of time.
Poorly designed meetings are wasteful, but good meetings are a critical part of productive work — from setting priorities and information sharing to brainstorming and collaboration. (vf)
2. Folder Structure Template
Do you also find yourself getting lost between endless folders for each project? And how do you actually structure files in your projects? When used properly, folder structure could be a helpful checklist to have all files neatly organized in one single place — and available at your fingertips.
Courtney Pester has put together a very comprehensive Organizational Starter Kit For Your Design Projects, with a folder structure on how to better organize your design documents and assets all in one place. As a bonus, you can also find Jiri Mocicka’s Folder structure in the remote era, which highlights a more systematic approach for your remote team. (vf)
3. How To Write A Great Design Case Study
Case studies often focus on end results rather than the process that gets there. Sometimes they feel a bit like documentation with tasks completed, milestones reached, and deadlines met. But they can be more than that — digestible, thorough stories that showcase skills, values, and processes and shed light on a unique point of view.
In A Complete Guide To Case Study Design, Fabricio Texeira and Caio Braga highlight some of the common issues with UX case studies — the lack of context, too much focus on methods, disconnected steps and underwhelming end results, and how to stand out with a strong story step-by-step. Authenticity and enthusiasm always shine through. Don’t hide them, and people will notice how incredible you are.
Some wonderful examples to be inspired by are Creating Slack’s Illustration voice by Alice Lee, Reimagining the future of TV by Abdus Salam and Designing Urban Walks by Anton Repponen. You can find more resources in a design case study guide as well. (vf)
4. Interface Design Critiques
Good design critiques raise questions and reveal new directions. They don’t come without pitfalls, though. If your design review meetings aren’t as efficient as you had hoped or if they leave your team feeling discouraged instead of inspired and empowered, we came across some valuable resources to help you get the most out of your next design critique.
Sean Harris outlines a useful technique for design review meetings that don’t get derailed: the Feedback Workshop. It brings structure to the traditional round-table discussion and solves the challenges that those usually bring along.
Noah Levin from the Figma design team also shares six methods for effective design critique, and the team at Overflow published a handy step-by-step guide to help you improve design critique meetings, for both presenters and facilitators.
Another useful resource comes from Anthony Hobday. He compiled a list of questions to ask in an interface design critique, covering everything from visual style to layout, composition, interaction, and performance. For more resources on running better design critiques that strengthen trust and team spirit, also be sure to check out the reading list that Vitaly compiled. (cm)
5. Upcoming Workshops and Conferences
That’s right! We run online workshops on frontend and design, be it accessibility, performance, or design patterns. In fact, we have a couple of workshops coming up soon, and we thought that, you know, you might want to join in as well.
As always, here’s a quick overview:
with Christophe Porteneuve. Aug 16–30
- Interface Design Patterns UX Training UX
with Vitaly Friedman. Sep 8 – Oct 6
- Accessible Components from Design to Development Dev
with Carie Fisher. Sep 14–22
- Universal Principles of Typography Masterclass UX
with Elliot Jay Stocks. Oct 16–30
- Strategizing Products and Customer Experiences (SPACE) UX
with Debbie Levitt. Oct 18–26
- Smart Interface Design Patterns Video Course UX
9h-video + Live UX Training with Vitaly Friedman
- Jump to all workshops →
6. Structuring Files In Figma
With multiple designers working on a project, structure is key to improving collaboration and keeping everyone on the same page. However, in reality, things often look different. While everyone involved is going all in on creating a shiny, pixel-perfect design, file organization can quickly get quite messy. Let’s do better.
Luis Ouriach, Designer Advocate at Figma, wrote a wonderful guide with best practices and approaches for better organization in Figma. You’ll learn how to structure teams, organize projects, and manage file organization. Even if it might seem like a chore at first, the effort is well worth it, ultimately enabling you to work more smoothly and efficiently. Happy organizing! (cm)
7. Climbing The Career Ladder
How to plan out long-term career goals — and achieve them? Aaron James wrote a helpful guide for product designers who ask themselves how to level up to become a senior designer. In it, he compiled everything you need to know about career ladders. You’ll learn how to assess your current level and create a career plan that helps you grow and progress step by step.
To get a better idea of the core competencies expected at each level of the ladder, the team at Figma published an overview of what they expect for each role on their team in the product design and writing career levels. It covers early career stages for seasoned leaders and describes the required skills for each level. Of course, expectations might vary from company to company, but the resource is great for assessing where you are and facilitating conversations with your manager about performance and career growth. (cm)
8. News From The Smashing Library 📚
Promoting best practices and providing you with practical tips to master your daily coding and design challenges has always been at the core of everything we do at Smashing.
In the past few years, we were very lucky to have worked together with some talented, caring people from the web community to publish their wealth of experience as printed books. Have you checked them out already?
- Understanding Privacy by Heather Burns
- Touch Design for Mobile Interfaces by Steven Hoober
- Image Optimization by Addy Osmani
- Check out all books →
That’s All, Folks!
Thank you so much for reading and for your support in helping us keep the web dev and design community strong with our newsletter. See you next time!
This newsletter issue was written and edited by Geoff Graham (gg), Cosima Mielke (cm), Vitaly Friedman (vf), and Iris Lješnjanin (il).
- Design & UI Inspiration
- All Things UX
- Lovely Little Website Gems
- Inclusive Design and Accessibility
- UX Writing and Microcopy
- Inclusive Design
- Figma Tools and Workflow
- UX Workflow
Looking for older issues? Drop us an email and we’ll happily share them with you. Would be quite a hassle searching and clicking through them here anyway.