5 steps to the design process

Design Process

The Simplified 5-Step Design Process

As inventors, engineers, webmasters, hackers , or anybody else that creates it is imperative that they have a solid understanding of the design process. We are going to break this process into 5 simple to understand steps. You will realize that the design process is very similar to the scientific method with slightly different verbage.

  1. AskĀ  A Question OR Define a Project Scope
  2. Do Background Research OR Write a detailed specification
  3. Test Your Hypothesis OR Design your product
  4. Analyze Results OR Prototype
  5. Is the hypothesis accurate OR Revise the Design

Define Project Scope

The scope of the project defines the target end result. It may not necessarily mean it actually becomes the end result as priorities might have changed during the course of the design cycle. In this step you want to identify the major goals. For instance, If building a website for a client is it going to be an informative site, business listing, or eCommerce site? The scope of each version will require different time constraints and coding. If you are designing a car, overly gerneral idea here, you want to define if it is an SUV, sports car, sedan, etc. You will further go into specification requirements like a minimum MPG rating of 35 and a power output of 300hp. At this time you don’t need to specify how to accomplish these. You are just listing out final product goals.

Develop Specifications

This is where a plan is layed out to reach the goals defined in the scope. This is the section for detail calculations, wire-frames, storyboards, etc. With most design companies this will be included in the design proposal as it is the start of the roadmap for the design process.

At the end of this stage you should be able to make a presentation outlining the goals and what are the plans to accomplish those goals. You should also be able to talk about the feasibility as you have finished the preliminary calculations, or wireframes. Once this stage is complete a report is usually generated with everything outlined. use this report in the next phase to guide the development cycle.

Design your Product

For most designers this is the real meat of the process. In this phase you are coding, modeling, designing electrical schematics etc. You are using the detailed specification in the previous step and implementing each of the sections to achieve the end result goal. Though the detailed specification is an excellent resource it may need to be modified as you will likely learn new limitations during the design phase

In this phase be sure to keep the end result in mind. If you are building a simple business listing website there is no need for complicated custom themes. Keeping it as simple as possible to achieve the end goal is usually the best approach.

Prototype and Test

Now for the fun part, testing. For mechanical and electrical system this means physically building prototypes. For software this means rigorous use and debugging. For website design this means debugging and ensure proper linking between pages. You want to use the specification as a check list for testing. While going through the design does it accomplish everything listed in the specification?

At this phase you may also realize that some critical features may have been overlooked. When this happens you need to reevaluate priorities and revise the specification.


Finally, Now that you have completed the cycle you need to ask yourself if is successfully fulfills the original requirements? Did everything perform as expected. Are there any documented bugs? Take the time now and revise the design to correct any of these concerns.



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