Open Design

How might we shorten the feedback loop between developers and designers?

That design life

Most designers are all too aware of the agony in the process of sending something to developers, waiting for them to actually code it and then reviewing what they have actually built. Typically it goes something like the illustration above.

In an effort to adress this conundrum, these are the questions that I started asking;

Would it be valuable for a designer, a developer and a PM to create dialogue around 1 screen of their digital product, while being limited to only 5 specific pieces of feedback per screen? And furthermore, might this approach help them remain highly productive as they iterate through ongoing design and development cycles?

Using these questions as a starting point, I mapped out a user story with the problem definition through big assumptions about a possible solution.

User Story

Now that the user story was written, we had some work to do:

  • Create a prototype of the simplest solution we can come up with
  • Test the prototype and validate or invalidate prior assumptions
  • If assumptions are validated, ship it!

  • Prototype

    Tap to view the interactive prototype in a new window. (Disclaimer: Won't look good in mobile or tablet in portrait mode)


    While gathering some initial feedback on the prototype, I focused on 3 different personas:

    1. Designer
    2. Project Manager
    3. Software Developer

    Persona 1.Designer While developing the first persona, I was lucky enough to talk to a “unicorn” i.e. a UX Designer who is also a PM and Front End Developer.

    After checking out our prototype he remarked:

    We have been looking for something like this for awhile now.. It will cut our design/development process in half.

    Persona 2.Project Manager For the second persona I talked to a PM while working on a project at Pivotal Labs in Sanfrancisco.

    After using the prototype she expressed the following:

    I see the opportunity for improved efficiency and would really appreciate both the visualization of iterations and mark down for documentation, but I would probably only use it if it had a deep integration with Pivotal Tracker.

    Persona 3.Software Developer For the third persona, I talked to Maria, a Java Script developer that I met at the Caltrain station in San Francisco after missing my train.

    After checking out our prototype she said:

    I would definitely use the product. I scream at my designer all day. We want to push everything at each other!

    Persona 3.Software Developer For the fourth person, I talked to Burke, a front end developer with a design background that I have worked with on projects before.

    After checking out our prototype he said:

    This would be great for our continued iteration process once the project is launched. Developers are not emotional. We do not want to hear whining about how we couldn't implement that button one pixel over, so come to the table with data.


    Now that we had a bit better idea of who we were designing for and validation from the prototypes performance with our personas, it was time to invest in some documentation that would guide our product development cycle and be flexible enough to change on the fly. These artifacts map the users experience from a welcome screen that provides an onboarding experience through completing their first project.

    Onboarding flow
    Onboarding wireframes
    Workspace flow sketch
    Workspace wireframes
    On-boarding image flow
    Camera roll animation mockup
    Annotation flow
    Current UI mockup

    Tap the button below to take a look at the accompanying documentation including the basic choreography of the users flow from welcome screen and onboarding experience through completion of their first project.

    By this time I had enlisted the help of an excellent iOS developer named Harrison who has begun translating my prototype and documentation into a native iPad app. Harrison has been fantastic to work with, needs very little direction and has some serious full stack development chops. He commented about working with me:

    I really enjoy working with Lance, he is a true entreprenuer and an excellent designer! I can't wait to put this project on my portfolio! - Harrison Friia, Sr. iOS Developer @Capital One & Open Design

    This will be an ongoing case study so keep an eye out for links to sign up for beta testing and eventually app store download!

    Think I might be a good fit for one of your projects?
    Contact me