At EdLab, we work as a team on many diverse projects and we all wear different hats: project (product) manager, engineer, researcher and designer. Personally, I am very interested in HOW each team can work better together, and WHAT is the best practice. We all approach our projects differently, each as their own expert within an area, and sometimes these differences can create some roadblocks.
Recently, I've experienced a very good work-process that I'd like to share with everyone. Please keep in mind that this is just one of many good team work-practices in use, and I'm not suggesting that every project should work this exact way especially as every project has its own unique challenges, and each approach should be revised based on those unique set of challenges.
I would like to point out a couple of things from which we can all learn, coming out of my observations in one specific case. One of the characters in this story is Danielle Garbouchian, our new member on the design and media team: Please welcome Danielle Garbouchian.
There are 3 characters with roles in this story: Danielle Garbouchian as a designer, Zhou Zhou as an engineer and JoAnn Agnitti as project manager.
Adding some visual elements on the Rock & Roll curriculum site that indicate "Download Essay".
We had just a single get-together meeting (with all), and a few face-to-face talks between project manager and designer, project manager and engineer and some email interactions among all teams.
1. The first 'good practice' example: how a project manager initiates the project with a designer. As the first step, Jo, as project manager, laid out all points about the project in an email, instead of in the face-to-face meeting. I personally prefer this direction for many different reasons. It saves time. Face-to-face meetings are good for some other reasons, but having a chance to read and understand in-depth about the overall goals and challenges of the project (in text format) before the face-to-face meeting helps the designer think about the project in the 'designer's eye' from the very early stage.
2. The second good practice example: the designer's approach. The unique challenge on this project is that this is an already existing site, set up with specific styles. So, the first step for Danielle, as designer, is understanding those style sets. And the second step for a designer is catching and trying to be fluent in the engineer's language, HTML & CSS, the way the site is constructed.
These days every browser provides a great tool, like Firebug, for a designer to understand how every site has been created within the code. This gives designers some idea about how to talk in the engineer's language, and that was Danielle's approach.
3. The real iteration process came from Zhou Zhou, with the engineer's view. His question: how will new additional (different) content be fitted within the many different pages. It's about how data will scale within a given structure that we have already created. It's also another unique challenge for this project. This is generally a crucial question when we develop the digital frameworks, such as website or applications. We try to come up with all the different data (from users or content contributors), but it's almost impossible to meet / anticipate all diverse content needs.
A great tool like Firebug also helped this problem within this sample process. We had tried some unique data (very lengthy) using Firebug and found out that the proposed design would crash with other existing elements in some cases.
Another iteration, next!
Design is a continuing-iteration process. You never reach a great solution in the first take, and great design comes from a multiple-iteration process through the team's collaborative input.
Even though it is a small project, I would like to give kudos to Jo, Zhou Zhou and our new addition Danielle!