Thursday April 8, 2021 By David Quintanilla
Better Documentation And Team Communication With Product Design Docs — Smashing Magazine

About The Writer

Ismael has been working over the past 13 years inside design groups in small and large sized firms from many various sectors like information media, design …
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Have you ever ever struggled to get the inexperienced mild in your design proposals? Do you’re feeling your design course of must be formalized? Does the COVID19 period is turning into a problem for working remotely as a designer? Then maintain studying to get to know a strategy to doc your design course of on this article.

The standard course of for working as a product designer in an organization or startup may very well be acquainted to you: a brand new product is being developed for which to offer a design resolution. Then you definately work on some design proposals and also you pitch them in entrance of 1–3 individuals to collect suggestions.

Typically this course of works simply fantastic, however another occasions it doesn’t. As an example, some individuals are busy listening to end their very own duties and don’t spend sufficient time to offer clear and concise suggestions on your design proposal.

It might additionally occur that regardless that your course of is nice you continue to need to formalize the method by writing down selections, retaining monitor of iterations, and the design course of basically, particularly within the present occasions the place we discover ourselves working remotely attributable to COVID19.

Documenting the method has many advantages. For instance, it makes your work extra seen, creates alternatives to get suggestions from many extra individuals, improves the general communication, and supplies a transparent image of how a characteristic was designed with all of the context and concerns round.

The Fall Of The Hero Designer

Round 2018, I used to be working as a distant Product Designer from Madrid in an organization that operates in Latin America, involving on this course of different groups from México and São Paulo, Brazil.

Remote map locations
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Earlier than I began working at this firm, I had loads of totally different experiences in my profession working in small and big-sized environments from many various sectors like information media, design studios, a social community, a cellular OS, based an e-grocery startup, and even did some freelance gigs with different small startups.

Throughout these years I had been following the identical method, you get some individuals sitting in the identical room, pitch your resolution, present some screens, flows, get some suggestions, and current it once more. After some iterations, your work shall be prepared to achieve the event part.

Nonetheless, this exact same method stopped working. Shortly after becoming a member of the group, I spotted that simply pitching my designs on a video name wasn’t sufficient. I used to be creating a whole lot of proposals, however I couldn’t attain last approval from my stakeholders and teammates. I used to be confused and stored asking myself: What was taking place? Wasn’t I designing one of the best resolution attainable? Wasn’t I delivering good high quality work? Each a kind of questions was making me lose confidence in myself. The issue was that I wanted to adapt my course of to this atmosphere.

As quickly as I spotted that my course of wasn’t working, I began studying a whole lot of articles about how to work as a designer remotely, the seagull effect (when somebody comes into your work, harshly criticizes it after which flies away), how other companies were approaching remote collaboration, and how they formalized their process by writing it down. After studying all this materials, I questioned how builders have been dealing with this similar challenge? How do they collaborate on distant environments in an virtually asynchronous method? How do they arrive to last agreements? I found that in truth, the developer group already has a course of that works fairly effectively for them: It’s known as pull requests.

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Pull requests allow you to introduce modifications in a bigger codebase by documenting them and validate your selections with different individuals’s suggestions. On this approach, the modifications you introduce combine completely with all of the requirements and connections the code already has in place. That is precisely what I wanted to realize, however after all in a design-fashion method. Let me introduce you to the Product Design Doc.

The Product Design Doc

A Product Design Doc (PDD), is a doc that converts the issues you need to clear up, the context, and the ultimate resolution into an iteration or stage-based method.

This implies you possibly can doc your whole design course of right into a single doc that may be shared with anybody at your organization and it’ll dwell as a information base for the product selections you make. Sounds cool uh? Let’s dig into the small print:

Total Ideas

A PDD will be described in 4 main ideas: Metadata, Context, Phases, and Suggestions.

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  • Metadata is simply helpful details about the doc such because the title, date, standing, and so forth.

  • Context is what different individuals must learn, for understanding the design proposals you make, give it some thought like the outline, drawback, summary, or objectives of what you’ll want to obtain.

  • Phases are the totally different iterations of your design, generally beginning specializing in the broader resolution and in every stage specializing in extra particular particulars. Every stage relies on the earlier and addresses the suggestions obtained. It is a structured approach of reaching a last level the place resolved points can’t seem once more.

  • Suggestions refers to all of the opinions, feedback, requests, and proposals you collect from different individuals. You’ll be able to collect suggestions out of your stakeholders or group members.

With these 4 ideas, you possibly can create totally different variations of PDD for suiting your wants, each firm/undertaking is totally different and what labored for me, doesn’t should work in the identical approach for you. However should you cowl these 4 essential ideas in your PDD, it is going to be more likely to work in virtually any scenario.

Instance Construction

After understanding the principle ideas, I’ll share with you the construction that I’ve been utilizing throughout my time in that firm. It has the next sections:

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  • The Title ought to be concise, clear and simply distinguished from different PDD titles you have already got.
  • The Standing signifies wherein stage is your doc proper now:
    • Draft
      Nonetheless engaged on defining the Context. Not prepared for suggestions.
    • S30, S60, S90
      The totally different levels (30%, 60%, 90%) of your resolution (extra particulars concerning the levels later).
    • Full
      All Suggestions has been addressed and there aren’t any lacking factors. The PDD is completed.
  • The Summary is the outline of the issue you’ll want to design for, generally linking to different useful associated readings you might need.
  • Targets are the important thing factors your resolution must give attention to, it is a guidelines that you’ll be continually reviewing to make certain you might be heading in the right direction.
  • S30 (or Stage 30%) is the primary proposal you make based mostly on the summary and the objectives, specializing in the broader resolution as a substitute of the small print, possibly by offering a low constancy wireframe or comparable approach. That is the stage the place the answer proposed might take a very totally different method and main suggestions is anticipated to occur.
  • S60 (or Stage 60%) is your resolution at 60% of completeness and applies the suggestions from S30. It has fewer particulars than S90, however clearly signifies the intention of your resolution. You present a high-fidelity wireframe with extra instances concerned and a few circulate definitions. You may obtain some kind of suggestions largely specializing in missed instances and small surprising eventualities.
  • S90 (or Stage 90%) is the stage that has the answer on the 90% of completeness and applies the suggestions from S60. This stage is targeted on the very best particulars of your design, together with all totally different eventualities, nook instances, visible design, and even prototypes. It is anticipated to have some sort of minor suggestions.

You is perhaps asking your self, do I must comply with the identical order and levels naming conference? Nicely, no you don’t. You’ll be able to rename the stage from S30, S60 and S90 to simply: Exploration, Proposal, Resolution.

You can too change the ordering so essentially the most refined work (S90, Resolution) will get on the prime of the doc and the studying circulate goes from the ultimate stage to the early one (S30, Exploration).


Begin shortly with one of many offered templates for the most typical writing platforms. Keep in mind: The naming conventions of the sections are completely customizable. If you happen to don’t like Summary, simply use Transient, About or something that fits your wants. The principle idea you will want to maintain is about creating totally different iterations to give attention to every stage, you possibly can simply rename S30 by Exploration, S60 by Proposal, and S90 by Resolution.

Key Advantages Of Utilizing PDD

  1. Each determination is documented.
    That means that even whenever you depart your organization/undertaking (and that can occur in the end), all of the information generated round will stick within the firm ceaselessly, so different individuals can have a look at it and iterate from the place you left.

  2. Improves communication.
    Getting totally different individuals out of your group on the PDD to offer suggestions helps everybody keep on the identical web page and being conscious of the choices made.

  3. Limits infinite modifications from stakeholders.
    Each stage focuses on a special angle of the issue, going from wider options to slim ones. This enables individuals to give attention to a single drawback at a time, serving to them within the closing levels.

  4. The product is constructed collaboratively.
    As a substitute of the stakeholders defining particular options, we let engineering, design, and different groups interact with the answer making them a part of it.

Remaining Notes

Closing the story about this distant firm, I started working there for some extra months and I used to be capable of implement the Product Design Docs no less than on 5 totally different tasks. My frustration was decreased quite a bit and I used to be capable of attain a consensus on my design proposals so the product continued to evolve. Since then, the corporate has grown quite a bit and among the work I did throughout my time remains to be getting used.

PS: I began writing this text in 2019, then in 2021 I noticed that Abstract was creating a product for documenting the design course of, so I made a decision to get again on monitor and end it. Seems prefer it’s nonetheless fairly a related matter.


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