When you first set out to design a piece of software, it can feel like an uphill battle to establish the necessary workflow, understand user needs, and test your software against various bugs and use cases. Without the right tools, techniques, and attitude, the design process will end up quickly getting off track and meeting the goals of your development will become increasingly difficult.

Thankfully, as software design and development pros, we have established a series of best practices for crushing this design process and creating superior software products. With this article, we are going to walk through the process and highlight areas that can be improved with these best practices.

Our hope is that you can apply these same principles to your own design process, achieve your objects, and better serve your end-users at the same time. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the software design process and how to maximize your potential throughout.

design process

Design process best practices

Before we begin, we would like to mention that most developers use some kind of Agile development process for their software projects. The reason we bring this is up is so that if you aren’t already using an Agile methodology, we encourage you to read up on them. By using methodologies like Scrum, you can immediately improve your efficiency throughout the design process. The following best practices will simply build upon this Agile foundation.

Read more: Every Agile Development Process, Explained

1. Set up a workflow system and stick to it

As we mentioned, the most important part of running a successful software design process is to set up a workflow system and actually stick to it. Although this seems obvious, you would be surprised how rare it can actually be. While Agile methodologies are always a good idea, they aren’t required. That being said, your team will need to find a workflow system that works for you in order to maximize your efficiency and end-product potential.

We recommend taking a note from Scrum development and organize your team into various roles within the project, with one person specifically in charge of keeping others accountable to goals and objectives. The follow-through is critical here, as a well-thought out plan is meaningless if you don’t stick to it.

2. Get users involved early in the design process

The next best practice for the design process is to get users involved as early as possible. With faster development cycles and a rapidly changing software market, user experience has never been more important. Customers will only be interested in your product if you can meet their needs better than anyone else on the market, so the logical first place to start is by finding out exactly what those users need.

Thankfully, UX design is becoming a more prominent school of design, with plenty of resources for how to best meet users, understand their needs, and design with them in mind. Unless you take the time to do this, you may end up with a product or software solution that completely misses the point. Save money in the long run by investing in UX from the beginning.

3. Take risks and fail fast

Our next piece of advice will seem less conventional than the first few we have looked at, but it can be just as impactful. As designers, you will need to take risks in order to achieve the best possible results. However, not all of these risks will pay off, so the second part of this best practice is that when you fail, fail fast. Explore an idea and be willing to try new things, but once you understand that it isn’t working, cut it off and try something else.

While this may seem counterintuitive to the Agile development and design process we are trying to achieve, unless you are willing to take risks, you will likely never discover the full potential of your software.

4. Control your work-in-progress

Now, at a certain point in the software design process, you are going to feel overwhelmed. This can be expected, especially with a large product backlog staring you down. A healthy way to keep this from happening is to control your work-in-progress list. This might be another task for the project manager or person in charge of maintaining a good workflow.

Often, this simply requires the dedication of a few days or even hours to tie up loose ends and finish off features that are missing a few lines of code. By keeping your eye on these, you can write these tasks off and continue moving forward with the development and design process.

5. Set a clear definition of ‘done’

The flip side of the last best practice is to set a clear definition of ‘done’ with your team. There will be times where, no matter what you try, you will not be able to make the product as perfect as you want, but you won’t be able to let it go. If you can clearly define what a finished feature looks like, you can keep your process efficient and cut down on wasted time.

Keep in mind, this is not to say that you should move on before your software has reached its full potential as you can always perform app maintenance later on. It simply will keep you from stalling the process by focusing on one area for too long. There will always be time to improve later with better data from users, so keep it moving and don’t forget to revisit when the time comes.  

6. Conduct thorough testing

The final best practice we will look at for crushing the software design process is to conduct thorough testing. You should test early, test frequently, and test well in order to flush out all of the bugs in your software and discover common pitfalls your users may experience. Over half of your customers will be less likely to engage with your company if you offer a poor experience, so be sure to test as much as you can before release.

Again, sometimes there will be occasions where you won’t be able to solve every problem but you will need to keep moving forward. While this isn’t ideal, there will always be time for improvement in the future. Just focus on what is most important to your users and the core functions of the software, the rest will come later.

Final thoughts and next steps

Now that you have a better understanding of how best to take on the software design process, we hope that you will take these best practices and apply them to your next project. The software and app design process can be chaotic and unpredictable, but by sticking to these tried and true methods you will be able to control the most important parts and come out the other side with a workable software product.

All that needs to happen next is for you to come up with the software product idea that you believe will be worth the time and investment. If you have an idea but aren’t sure what to do with it, consider starting a project conversation with us. We would love to help in any way that we can!