Delivering Your Work In Layers

Getting used to sharing work in progress to make more efficient design decisions

Here is something I have learned in my career that has improved my efficiency quite a lot — and that whenever possible I pass on to the designers I work with:

Do your work in layers.

Not talking about Photoshop or Sketch layers. I’m talking about fidelity layers.

Some designers like to work on a product piece by piece.

They focus on one screen or feature at a time, and dedicate full days of work trying to make that one piece look as polished and finished as possible. Before sharing it with the rest of the team, they make sure visuals are pixel perfect, elements are precisely aligned, imagery and copy are as close to final as possible, and that they actually prototype how the elements in screen will animate together.

And they never share their designs with the rest of the team until they feel extremely confident about the work.

But those things take time.

Illustration: Floortjes Artwork

Here are a few inherent risks with that approach:

In retrospective, the designer has spent a big chunk of the project timeline crafting one screen in isolation.

It doesn’t matter how important that screen is.

It doesn’t matter it’s the homepage.

That screen is always going to be part of a larger flow.

And that flow is always going to be part of a broader design system.

In 1 minute, you have a pretty good idea of what that nose will look like; illustration by Floortjes Artwork

Instead of spending two entire weeks designing the same screen and trying to turn it into a completely finished product, what if you tried to deliver your work in layers?

You can start from defining a conceptual model for your product.

Or from sketching out a navigational framework (quick and dirty wireframes of what each section of your product is going to look like).

Or from picking one key user flow in your product — the most important one from a business and user perspective — and taking a quick pass at designing a sequence of screens that people will experience.

It doesn’t matter where you want to start. But do it in layers.

Share your progress every day.

Every couple of hours even.

5 minutes might be enough for people to understand where you’re heading; illustration by Floortjes Artwork

One of the biggest benefits of that approach is keeping a birds eye view on the entire product, not just a single screen.

If your stakeholders, your manager or your client wants to see where you’re at, you will never have nothing to show. There will always be enough work to look at and trigger a fruitful discussion about. There will always be time to course-correct your designs. There will always be time to adjust the project plan to fit your designs.

Trust your peers. Get used to sharing work in progress. If they are smart, they will understand you’re not sharing something unfinished because you’re incapable of finishing it; you’re doing it because you’re senior enough to understand how to better utilize your time.

Your manager will appreciate it.

This article was originally published on Fabricio’s Medium page.

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Design Director at Work & Co, Founder of UX Collective

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