At MindSea, we believe great design starts with understanding the needs of the people who will use the service or product, and begins with conducting intentional work to build that understanding.
We combine and apply the thinking and techniques from Human-Centered Design (HCD), User-Centered Design (UCD), User Experience (UX), and Service Design to employ a highly pragmatic, iterative, and collaborative way of working. From our initial concepts to our fully built solutions, we’re always focused on the end users whose lives will be affected by the finished product.
Click here to learn more about our UX and Design team.
Human-Centered Design, the MindSea way
To create well-designed and highly effective digital solutions, we work to clearly define four critical aspects of every product:
- Learning & Strategy – “What it is”
- User Experience – “How it works”
- Visual Design & Branding – “How it looks”
- Development & Technology – “What we build”
Build what people need, not what you think people need.
Pre-COVID, our learning and strategy phase usually took the form of an in-person workshop: ten people in a conference room for six hours, working through user and business needs, strategy, concepts, and design ideas. As we revamped and improved our process during COVID, we made several changes resulting in a highly effective remote project kickoff process.
Then, as now, every project begins with a kickoff—but not as a single multi-hour meeting. We’ve found breaking things into a number of very specific conversations works extremely well. These conversations:
- Include deep dives on business strategy, product positioning, and competitive analysis
- Result in 3 to 6 hours of conversation just on the initial idea itself
- Demonstrate the idea in order to fully understand the problem being solved
Our process was revamped and improved as we took it online—we translated old-school Post-It notes on office walls and windows into the remote world. We swapped paper for online collaboration tools, but every MindSea project still starts by focusing on learning, research, and discussion.
Form and function—apps that work wonderfully well and look good
Once we’ve established what the solution needs to be, our User Experience phase determines how the solution will work. We define, sketch, wireframe and prototype, and iteratively test our prototypes with real people. In fact, we may do as many as three or four major iterations on every app, each one improving on the previous version.
There are two crucial factors to this phase which we like to make clear to new clients from the start:
- Our design practice is about building out apps that work really well for real-world users. So, while the right aesthetic is crucial to the design process, we don’t start there. We begin with intuitive, intelligent functionality.
- Doing user experience research on every project is mandatory. We insist upon this step. In order to best serve our client, we need to talk to some real potential customers or users of the product. Engaging with real users helps us understand what their challenges, their needs, and their motivations really are, and what the product needs to do for them.
In addition to (and often within) client and user conversations, we employ a number of exercises to brainstorm features and bring forth ideas. This allows us to narrow in on what’s needed to build our MVP (minimum viable product).
For example, we may conduct an exercise where we ask our clients to draw multiple versions of an app’s home screen to establish the priority of features and information. We might also draw on Service Design approaches—like customer journey mapping—to understand how a customer’s context could affect their need and use of an app.
Most importantly, we always frame our approach to meet the unique requirements and working styles of our client partners. In this sense, we work with our clients in a human-centered way.
More than app design—a whole design system
Human-centered design is much more than just how something looks. But how it looks is a major part of human-centered design!
When it comes to visual design and branding, we’ve built this phase of our process around certain approaches we’ve found to be very effective.
We provide an accessible way for stakeholders to communicate how something should look, or feel, or function. Mood boards are an example of this. As designers, we can’t assume others will always communicate in design terminology. That’s why we develop methods by which people can tell us, in their own way, what they think is important about colors or textures, about the way elements are organized, or even about how an app makes them feel.
We also work to our clients’ specific needs. Sometimes we begin working from a client’s existing visual designs. In other instances, we help the client build out an entirely new brand from scratch, including a style guide with print, typeface, color palette, etc.—incredibly useful for our clients to apply to other channels.
Our approach treats the goal of the visual design phase as much more than making an app look “pretty” or a website look “nice.” It’s the whole package: a comprehensive system of design.
Ready for development with the MindSea Blueprint
The last phase is not an isolated stage at the end, it’s actually woven throughout the process. All the way along, we’re asking questions like these, and the MindSea Blueprint answers them all.
- How is this solution going to be built?
- Are we building in Android, iOS, or both? Is it React Native?
- Is a native app, or a web application? Or both?
- What will it cost in terms of time? Resources?
- What considerations do we have for accessibility, privacy, and security?
The word “blueprint” gets thrown around an awful lot in our line of work. But we think the MindSea blueprint is a bit different. It packages together all the discovery and user research, the UX, and all the design and strategy. Our clients receive a set of wireframes, a prototype and visual design—everything required to actually build the product.
And while we often do build the solution for our clients, our Blueprint exists as an inexpensive entry point providing everything about the intended product, down to every nut, bolt, and feature function.
At MindSea, our human-centered approach focuses on the real people who will use the products we carefully design, bringing together the skill and experience of our clients, designers, developers, and product managers to create meaningful solutions with a lasting impact.
Let’s talk about how we can work together. Reach out today.