How Collaborative Design Can Help You Build Better Products

  • Abhi Garg
  • By  Harmeet Kaur
  • |
  • clock 11 mins read
  • |
  • calendar Updated: March 27, 2023


An approach to creating, as well as a combination of software tools that allow several businesses to collaborate on creating products, is collaborative product development (also called collaborative product design, or CPD). Get to know collaborative design in our blog to learn how it can help you achieve success.

If you’ve ever experienced a creative wall in product development, especially when it comes to building a product that stands out in an overcrowded market, then you know the pain of hitting one. But collaborative design is the solution.

Design collaboratively involves bringing together people with different backgrounds and industries to develop new ideas and work together. It is possible to develop truly unique and effective solutions by leveraging the unique perspectives and expertise of this diverse group.

Architects are concerned with software architecture, designers are concerned with user usability, developers know whether a design is feasible, and stakeholders are concerned about whether a product design is worth investing in. An experience design project is not a one-person or one-team task; rather, it is an ongoing collaborative initiative carried out by a product development company.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss the benefits of collaborative product design and why it is worthwhile to pursue it. Incorporating collaborative design into your product development strategy has many benefits, from improving the creative process to increasing your chances of success. For more information on the power of collaborative design, read on.

We cannot leave design to designers any longer.”—Tim Brown.

Why should you consider collaborative design?

An effective product development team requires effective collaboration among different members of the team. For example, the designers, the architects, and the testers. But why is collaborative design necessary?

As a result of collaborative design, a variety of perspectives and expertise can be included in product development. It is possible to generate more innovative and creative ideas by bringing together a diverse group of people, which would not have been the result of a single individual or homogeneous group.

By allowing more comprehensive problem-solving through collaborative design, collaborative design can also lead to better quality products. Furthermore, involving diverse stakeholders in the design process can result in greater buy-in and support for the final product. Overall, collaborative design can result in more successful and well-received products.

As a result of this approach, everyone provides feedback and suggestions, validates and approves design ideas on the basis of brainstorming ideas.

Collaborative design aims to produce non-linear solutions for various kinds of problems by involving people with different profiles in the design process.” – Gustavo Pimenta, founder of SensesLab

Why do we collaborate on design?

An approach to product development known as collaborative design involves bringing together various stakeholders to create a product, including designers, developers, and users. In this way, more innovative and effective solutions can be developed during the design process due to the inclusion of a wider range of perspectives and ideas.

During collaborative design, stakeholders can discuss potential solutions to the problems that the product will address at a series of meetings and workshops. All stakeholders will benefit from the well-designed, effective final product resulting from this approach.

In product development, collaborative design plays an important role

Design and collaboration are integrated into software development through collaborative design.

Collaboration plays a role at various stages of the product development process, including:

1. Proof of Concept (PoC) development

Innovative (untried) ideas are tested using proof of concept in New Product Development.

To check the quality of the concept as it relates to development efforts and corresponding design requirements, the product development team, including designers, developers, and architects, works together.

2. Developing prototypes

The prototype helps visualize how the product will look concerning the user experience design, as well as attract seed funding, because it helps validate the look and feel of the product.

During the prototyping process the designers, architects, and developers work together to determine the features and design of the prototype based on the product owner’s requirements.

Designers collaborate with developers, product owners, testers, and design architects to design the prototype with their recommendations.

3. Designing and building the MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

As part of the Software Development Life Cycle(SDLC), a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is built with minimal must-have features and launches on the market after passing all stages of the SDLC. User feedback influences further refinements and feature additions.

A collaborative approach to MVP development ensures shared ownership among the development team during the following stages.

a. Process of designing

Daily standups are conducted to assess the team’s progress and collaborate toward improving the design and development efforts. The designers work on the finalized design and tweak it for changing requirements and opinions.

b. Developing a product

Time-boxed sprint cycles allow developers and designers to simultaneously design features and optimize UX flow.

c. Quality assurance for design

Upon completion of the design, the design QA team ensures that there is no “design debt”, which is inconsistency between the idealized design and the designed product. As developers and designers work together to ensure design consistency at this level, it is part of promoting collaboration in the development of your product.

  • User stories are reviewed by designers
  • Make changes to the UI code if necessary in collaboration with the developers

Collaborative Design Activities Promoted by Agile

Among the collaborative design approaches commonly used in product development are:

1. Retrospects

Software development teams, including designers, developers, and testers, conduct retrospectives to learn from past mistakes and best practices.

It is possible to conduct retrospectives based on user feedback to validate the success of past product designs in collaborative design.

A team should brainstorm a new design to address issues associated with usability, discoverability, and findability if the existing design falls short.

2. Programming for mobile devices

To solve a problem or accomplish a task, the entire product development team works on the same thing simultaneously on the same system. It can help you fix a design error or come up with a new design that everyone agrees on during collaborative design.

3. Crowding

It refers to the activity in which team members with similar skills work together to accomplish a task a particular team member is having difficulty with. As part of collaborative design, swarming refers to an activity in which the entire team assists in completing a design task that a specific designer is unable to complete.

Designing collaboratively: best practices

In addition to Whiteboard Sketching, Crazy Eights, and Affinity Diagrams, Design Sprints are common collaborative design techniques.

1. Scribbling on whiteboards

It works well for smaller teams or cross-functional teams that want to compare design ideas using visualization. Whiteboard sketching is an informal session where multiple team members contribute to one design on a whiteboard. Whiteboards are ideal for solving complex design problems or developing innovative ideas.

2. Eights in a row

A sketching activity known as “Crazy Eights” consists of three rounds, including:

a. Eight ideas in five minutes.

After folding the paper thrice into equal halves, each member should unfold it and then sketch 8 ideas into each rectangle in no more than five minutes.

b. Here’s a big idea you can think of in five minutes,

There will be no more than five minutes for each participant to come up with at least one big idea on a separate piece of paper. The idea will either be to combine elements from one of the eight ideas from Round One or to build a new idea from scratch.

c. The storyboard/wiring flow should be completed in five minutes

The participants must now develop a storyboard and UX design flow for one of the big ideas from Round 2.

3. Diagrammatic representations of affinity

In a collaborative design process, affinity diagrams are used to gather opinions and ideas and group them based on natural relationships between them. Affinity diagrams are especially relevant for teams with five to six members.

An affinity diagram consists of five steps:

a. Generating ideas

Post-its are used to document the design ideas developed through the collaborative design process.

b. Representation of ideas

Next, arrange all the post-its randomly on a wall or table so they can be grouped.

c. Establish groupings

As a result of natural grouping and shared understanding among the team members, all the ideas are manually sorted into common groups by the product development team.

d. Cards for headers

The idea should be a simple phrase or sentence on a post-it that speaks to all the ideas within a group.

A superheader is a group that is related to several other groups and can be categorized under that common group.

e. An Affinity Diagram should be drawn

You need to take the following steps at this stage of collaborative design practice:

  • The product’s primary goal is to solve a particular problem
  • Organize your design ideas with headers and superheaders
  • The entire development team should review and validate the groupings
  • Affinity diagrams should be documented

4. Rapid prototyping

Design sprints are time-boxed processes for addressing design issues, which in turn reduce technical debt. They are just like scrums, except they focus on designing.

The design process involves developers, designers, architects, and testers working together to validate, test, revalidate, recommend, and approve ideas.

The design sprint will include the following tasks if the Monday to Friday schedule is taken into consideration:

  • Ensure design priorities are defined, seek expert validation, gather suggestions, and reset goals as needed.
  • To help the design team navigate the actual design process, draft or sketch a rough design on Tuesday.
  • Create a complete and holistic storyboard to weave all the design elements together.
  • Create an early sample of a design idea by converting storyboards into a prototype that mimics the near reality of the design.
  • Iteratively improve the design based on user feedback throughout the design sprints.

How to Design Collaboratively with the Best Tools

Designers and developers can collaborate with the following tools:

Collaborative Design Tool
1. Figma (Our Personal Favorite) A web-based vector graphics editor and prototyping tool.
2. InVision A prototyping tool for designers that can be shared across the product development team for reviews and suggestions.
3. RedPen A tool for creating design prototypes. Different members of the development team can then post feedback in the form of annotations.
4. Mural It is an intuitive collaborative design thinking tool for creating prototypes, building frameworks, images, gifs, etc. The team can then comment, chat, or even arrange a quick call for suggesting changes and presenting opinions.
5. Zeplin A cloud-based tool for the UI team to collaborate — for creating shareable design prototypes.
6. Webflow Allows users to create and publish professional-looking websites without writing code. It helps users design and builds their websites, including a drag-and-drop website builder, customizable templates, and various design tools such as typography, layout, and color palette options.

Designing collaboratively has many benefits

For those willing to take on this challenge, the rewards are innumerable.

In design, collaboration is important for a number of reasons:

1. Teams are no longer siloed

Collaborative design encourages inclusion on product development teams, breaking down silos. The collaborative design promotes the idea that “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” Productivity occurs when everyone on the team works together for problem-solving or brainstorming ideas, regardless of their roles.

2. Ensures your designs are powerful and foolproof

Designers, developers, design architects, and testers are all involved in the design process, so everyone’s viewpoints and opinions are taken into account before the final product is designed. Innovation happens, and robust designs are created that are highly likely to succeed in terms of parameters like usability, intuitiveness, findability, discoverability, etc.

3. Shared ownership is enabled

When team members participate in the collaborative design process, they feel invested in the outcome and feel responsible for its success.

4. Increased speed of market entry

Design changes and to-and-fro changes are fewer if the final design is a visual representation that incorporates suggestions from the entire product development team (designers, product owners, developers, testers). Consequently, the time to market is sped up, and the team is more satisfied.

Is Collaboration Always a Good Idea?

Several use cases can benefit from collaborative design:

  • An organization’s vision
  • A problem’s context
  • Fun and practical ways to generate and discuss ideas
  • Identifying and solving specific design issues
  • Life cycle design for products and services

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few things to remember to choose a reliable mobile app development partner:
  • Choose a partner that cares about its clients.
  • Never compromise on technology experience and domain expertise.
  • Check out your development partners’ portfolios, customer testimonials, and references.
  • Observe how they approach communication and how much they pay attention to your vision.
  • Ask the right questions to help you choose easily.
Here are a few reasons why India is one of the preferred outsourcing destinations:
  • The average outsourcing charges in India are $18 – $40, which is way more affordable than in developed countries like the USA, $38 – $63.
  • India has a large pool of native-English speakers who’re highly proficient in their work.
  • With an Indian outsourcing partner, you can access 24×7 support and specialized IT talent.
Depending on the complexity of a mobile app, it can take several weeks to several months to develop it. An app like Uber takes around 1200 hours to develop. On the other hand, a dating app like Tinder can be developed in 1000 hours.
Pricing-wise, freelancers appear to be more affordable. However, they offer no accountability for your mobile app. You can’t hold them accountable if the app doesn’t turn out to be as expected. On the other hand, an app development agency takes complete responsibility for your mobile app. Hence, an app development agency is better than a freelancer.

Do you have an exciting mobile app idea in mind?

We can help you to build a mobile app on an affordable budget. Contact us!

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