Design Services: Who, What & Why?

May 22, 2019 Edward Marsh

PGS Software does much more than the Cloud. We also offer a number of specialised Design Services related to the digital products that we offer.

However, this isn’t something that everyone is as knowledgeable about. We all know about the benefits of the Cloud – but digital Product Design? Mobile Experience? Design Systems? These are less well known.

And since we’re hosting our own Design Excellence event in London on the 26th of June (you can get the full details and register here) so now’s the perfect time to explore our design expertise in more detail!

We sat down with our three service managers to ask them more about these services and learn just how – and why – we’re offering this additional support:

Krzystof Piwowar PGS Software PGS Kamil Szwaba

Krzysztof Piwowar

Michal Hans

Kamil Szwaba

Design Manager responsible for Product Design – the process for embedding design into daily development, helping companies understand why they want to build something, what they want to achieve – and how to do it. Frontend Manager and Service Manager for Design Systems – a process for building (or rebuilding) products with reusable components. Mobile Team Leader and Service Manager for Mobile Experience services – building proper applications designed to make the most out of mobile platforms and meet mobile user needs.

First things first… why should I invest in design? Shouldn’t I focus on infrastructure, technology or something more practical?

Krzysztof Piwowar (KP): In the end, you want to build something that will get you the money and the numbers will actually be okay. So, to avoid missing this point, you need know what your business needs are and what your user needs are.

To answer this, you need to be able to define with whom you want to engage with, how you will do it, and how to translate those answers into action points. This will inform how you build your roadmap and define the solution that will be developed at the end.

For that, you need design, because design is a process for both asking and answering those questions. It also makes sure you have tools that can translate those answers to action items.

Michal Hans (MH): I can add that there are many reports that show that companies that are investing in design actually generate more revenue. There is a McKinsey report for example, that shows this, as well as a DMI report and the latest data from Invision.<

All of them are saying the same thing – that companies which invest in design get more revenue.

Kamil Szwaba (KS): When you invest in the design and the design process, you can actually think about creating something new and innovative. This way, you can find new customers and new clients – which can lead to new revenue in the future.

Design services from a software house – how and why did that happen?

KP: That’s a fair question! Software houses are very good at delivering good software – that’s the strength of a software house.

Yet having design services inside a software house enables you to go through the entire solution production process in one place. It’s not just about delivery, it’s also about what you will build and why. So, if you embed this process inside a software house, you can go through the entire process of thinking about what the solution should be, as well as how to build it.

MH: Keep in mind that Krzysztof hasn’t mentioned anything about visual design – people often think that design is something purely visual. By ‘design’, we mean the whole product – how it works, not just how it looks…

KS: Just adding to those answers, I can say that when we had the chance to build mobile applications inline with design concepts – with answers to the questions you need – we found that it works much better. You can create better applications.

Okay, but if I do invest in design, when should I start to think about it during a project?

KP: When? As early as possible! But for how long?

MH: Constantly

KP: Yes, constantly! It’s usually constant because it is not only about whether you are using elements from these services, because the team that is working on the product will still be thinking and working from a design perspective.

KS: For mobile, I can say that if you are thinking about how much time is needed for development, such as writing code, there are usually 2 or 3 days for a workshop and then we need to prepare data and we need maybe a month – perhaps a month and a half – to start development.

What we like to do with these designs services is to be constantly involved. Because, at every iteration, even once development is started, we want to rethink everything. We want to involve the design in the whole process.

What is the Return on Investment (ROI) of design? After all, it’s still an investment…

KP: We are trying to avoid saying “it depends”… there are many metrics, as in business, so I’m not sure there is a straight answer or figure.

KS: I would say that, if your current solution is not reaching your goals, has a small number of customers or sales are too low, and you bring design services to change it and fix it, then you can see whether these numbers or rates go up after implementation. That’s how you can measure it.

KP: So a straight answer is that design work is measurable – you can measure the initial state with the final state and compare the metrics. If this is about efficiency, it can be measured. If this is about accuracy, it can be measured. If this is about security, it can be measured. If this is about conversion… of course, it can be measured.

If you want to measure the ROI before you start work, you need to define the goals and which metrics you will use, as well as what tools will be used to measure these metrics and what will be considered a success.

KS: You can measure revenue or money coming into your pocket by tapping the ‘buy’ button – I’m pretty sure in most cases, we can make those numbers bigger and we can translate this into money, because you know how much you earn with each click.

KP: I would say it’s easier to measure things in the likes of eCommerce, where it’s normal to measure everything. You can see that a conversion is better at the end, such as how much more people are buying and how frequently they are buying.

Are they returning to the shop and are they drilling down the service or offers? Are they spending more time reading about the products? This can all be considered ROI – because, at the end, you are fighting for more exposure, more time and more sales.

A lot of the design process happens at the start, so what happens if I skip or rush Product Design?

KP: In the best case scenario, you will end up with a solution that is kind of good and it can work for some time. In the worst case scenario you end up with something that doesn’t solve your problem.

In the worst case, you will be in the same place, or worse, because you changed the tool from something bad to something less effective.

But if you apply even part of the design elements into the process, then you are at least able to see the red flags and see what you are missing.

KS: What sometimes happens is that you get an application that is working; there are no errors or security issues. Everything is fine but you are not reaching your business goals, rates in sales, conversions, and so on. That usually happens when the design process is not involved and we’ve seen that a lot.

KP: I would add one more thing here. Many people say that “I know this business, I’ve been here for the last 20 years, so I know what works and what doesn’t”. So, with the first project? You can be right. And the second time you can be right. And the third, fourth, and fifth. It could still be fine. But it depends how much risk you want to take.

KS: Some people think design is an artistic way of thinking about new things. They think it’s very imaginable and creative, but actually it’s very pragmatic, with numbers and statistics – it’s data driven.

You’ve mentioned both business needs and user needs. Which is more important and how do you balance them?

KS: I’m hearing a lot more now that user-centered design is coming up a lot. From my perspective, you want to build an application or digital product that makes the customer think they are central but, in the back, you are keeping in mind your business goals.

MH: You are probably using Facebook, right? You probably think that this application is for you to chat with people, see status updates, and so on. But, from the business perspective? It’s great for selling your data to other companies. That’s a great design, as both sides are happy with it.

KP: Sometimes its very hard to make sure that both spectrums are addressed. Many times, business aspects and user aspects are opposed. But, it’s possible – especially in the B2C sector – to address both your business needs by user needs.

If you don’t have users, you won’t have a product, you won’t have revenue and your business will be done. The worst thing you can do is to make a decision without being aware of theses spectrums. You will, again, be gambling.

But if instead you say, this time the business need is more important, then that’s your aware decision so go for it. Then you will see the results. If you see results are going in the wrong direction, then maybe the decision is wrong. But you had the chance to make the right decision, so next time you will think differently – and that’s value because you will learn something.

KS: Let me give a simple example: in a workshop, we are first defining the business goals and we are working to find the personas of those who would use the application. Then, we work through the business proposition canvas, keeping the business goals in mind. Both perspectives are on the plate, but we start with business goals. Then we try to meet all the user goals.

You said Product Design aims to solve user needs. Have end user needs and expectations changed over time?

KP: For sure, they are changing and evolving. This is especially true in B2C sectors, because the competition is very big and people are using different tools – from this, they are building experiences and expectations. They are building what we call a ‘mental model’ – people are seeking specific answers, solutions and information, then they expect these mental models to be respected in other solutions.

How fast does this occur? This is hard to answer. It’s faster than just a few years ago, when people weren’t so exposed to such a variety of goods and solutions.

You also need to monitor your target group and see how fast they’re evolving. For instance, if you’re thinking about our parents, it will probably be slower and there’s a longer time frame for adjusting. But, if you’re thinking about millennials, or even younger, that’s a crazy highway.

KS: I would say that, nowadays, more and more services are going digital, which means the competition is getting bigger and bigger. Every company needs to do more. A decade a go, just having an application was enough to be different. Now, you need a unique digital product – the needs are bigger.

KP: But there are some stable design best practices and rules, too, that are not evolving. This is in terms of how your eyes interrupt information, what are the best practices in terms of designing the UI and the behaviour of certain patterns. These things are very stable and, if you follow established practices, you will be okay. Yet it’s the parts that change which are vital.

Mobile devices have changed over time and they are not always consistent with each other. Is this something Mobile Experience can help with?

KS: Sure, we have tools now for that. In the Apple world, it’s not so difficult, but Apple still has a bigger range of resolutions and devices then they did a decade ago. But they are adding tools for developers for this purpose. Google is also adding tools for developers to ensure everything works.

How does it work? When a developer gets visual designs from the graphic designer, they are typically already designed for all resolutions – we have tools to do this, so it’s a simple process. Yet it’s very important to think about this from the very beginning. That’s why design needs to be involved all the time – to check and verify across every device.

What about products that need to operate across mobile, desktops and other solutions. What’s the process for figuring that out?

MH: I’m from the frontend world, so I know a lot about this.If you want to cover many devices, you can always go with a responsive design and create something that responds to different screen sizes. But this has changed a little recently, as its evolved to adaptive web design, when you define the components to fit some sort of container. This container could be the whole screen, part of the screen and so on.

Later you can, for example, create a layer of containers for these components that’s different for mobile, for desktop, for TV and even different for smartwatches, and so on. But, in the end, it could be the same container that scales up to fill that gap.

KP: In terms of designing the interface, from a UX perspective, you need to assume that the interface will evolve. It needs to evolve and you need to be able to design with the mindset that some areas will likely change somehow. Yet it’s very hard to predict how, if you are lacking a clear vision from the client.

If there’s a roadmap, you can adjust to it and see that, for example, there may be new devices or platforms in half a year or a year. The interface needs to be flexible to a certain level, but you will not be prepared for everything that might happen.

How does product design work with Design Systems? Does one limit the other, or is there a set process?

MH: The product design answers the question of what should be done. But the design system answers how it should be done. It’s just the methodology of building the product. It’s two different parts of the process.

Do Design Systems take mobile into consideration? How does this work with Mobile Experience?

KS: Mobile is a specific situation when using product design. Design Systems are a tool where you can have a range of digital products – mobile can simply use the Design System to build the application.

MH: If you build something for mobile, you will probably use material design from Google, or create your own system that’s used throughout your brand, such as web applications.

Last question! What would you say is the biggest reason to include design in any product process?

MH: To deliver what’s needed, not what you want.

KS: You should involve design if you want to build something innovative.

KP: Use design if you want to make conscious decisions.

What Next?

Hopefully that explains a lot more about our Design Services. Have any questions of your own? Take a look at our Product Design, Mobile Experience and Design System pages and let’s see if we can help answer them!

If you would like to know more, why not attend our Design Excellence event? All the details are here and registration is free – come meet some of our design experts in person!Design Excellence PGS

Business Perspective

Design services focus more than just visuals. They help streamline products, keeping a consistent focus on usability and achieving the overarching business needs. By knowing this, development can then continue in a smooth fashion, ensuring these ultimate goals are never forgotten.

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