Design

A Beginner’s Guide to DesignOps

Team Pepper
Team Pepper
Posted on 29/03/227 min read
A Beginner’s Guide to DesignOps

DesignOps can be defined as the orchestration and optimization of craft, processes, and people to enhance the value and impact of a design. A guide to Design Operations shows how one plans, manages, and defines the design process. It is a term that addresses various challenges, including: 

  • Hiring skilled people
  • Creating well-structured workflows
  • Amplifying the impact and quality of design outputs

A DesignOps handbook can help understand the goal of DesignOps, i.e., to establish the measures that support operations and processes. It provides comprehensive solutions to obstacles so that designers can focus on the roles of researching and designing without having to fix other problems as well. 

Even though DesignOps has been around for quite some time, it remains a topic that tugs at our curiosity. Many designers see the term DesignOps as a singular activity; they believe it helps create a structured design system. However, others consider it an umbrella term used for something that is a part of every design arena. As the name implies, Design Operations is an effort to operationalize design. It looks over the design process within an organization. To understand it better, a guide to Design Operations is often required.

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The fundamental aim of DesignOps is to create a well-planned design process to generate outputs of superior quality. Its benefits are enjoyed not only by designers, but also by every individual involved in the design process. Most designers work on a deadline, hurrying to finish a task with little room left for creativity, frequently resulting in subpar outputs. To help with the creative process, DesignOps can streamline the process in little time, without compromising the quality of work. Most organizations that have swapped traditional UX design and research processes with DesignOps have improved product and service designs efficiently and at a faster pace.

3 Primary Components of DesignOps

DesignOps is a broad topic since several elements encompass the term. The structure of DesignOps looks different in different organizations, since it changes as per the needs and pain points of each place. As the challenges and requirements change, so does the focus of DesignOps. Let’s get you acquainted with the DesignOps structure before proceeding further. There are three key components of DesignOps:

1. Working together

DesignOps helps you set your plans into action. The way you structure your teams, organize them, and build up work that creates a meaningful impact has backing from DesignOps. It helps you with the following: 

  • Organize
    • Designing a well-planned structure for the team
    • Building well-balanced teams based on skill
    • Assigning roles to individual designers as well as the department of design
  • Collaborate
    • Creating a structured plan for meetings
    • Ensuring every individual concerned is a part of this collaboration
    • Assigning a space for skill practice and sharing of interests
  • Humanize

This component includes:

  • Creating interviewing structures closely linked to the requirements of the design team
  • Following a consistent process for hiring and onboarding
  • Laying out clear career pathways for various roles

2. Getting work done

The steps involved under this section are as follows: 

  • Standardize
    • Amplifying and keeping track of the design process, right from initiation to the final output
    • Ensuring the process includes purposeful design activities
    • Assigning appropriate design tools to each team to ensure smooth collaboration
  • Harmonize
    • Managing and expanding systems to make a designer’s job easier
    • Creating an easily accessible inventory of researched data
    • Using systems that help the team share design templates and other assets with one another
  • Prioritize

Acquainting yourself with the guide to Design Operations also entails being able to choose which tasks to work on. 

  • Identifying congestions that hinder the design workflow
  • Handing out projects as per the team’s capacity
  • Using consistent procedures to choose the sequence of projects to work on

3. Creating impact

The final component of DesignOps is how you create impact. It includes how you define and gauge the quality of design, how you educate others about their roles, and more.

  • Measure
  • Creating standards for design teams to decide whether a project is good
  • Choosing and keeping track of the metrics of design quality 
  • Using consistent design fundamentals as objectives in the project
  • Socialize
    • Drafting set standards for the value and role of design, and ensuring that the team is on the same page
    • Sharing successful projects of user-centric design processes
    • Appreciating and rewarding teams that implement design practices in the project
  • Enable
    • Educating individuals on implementing design tools and activities for a project
    • Crafting easy-to-access guides to make the design process smooth and convenient
    • Assigning skill-based training to ensure that design tools are used properly

What Is the Importance of DesignOps Today?

The way designers interact and work with each other in an organization is changing, and that is bringing DesignOps into the limelight. The potential of efficient designs to generate a successful output is not unknown. Individuals involved in any design process understand the value of design. Unfortunately, this understanding also means that designers often need to be involved in strategic discussions along with managing their daily jobs of researching and designing. 

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Besides, they need to handle more complex contexts than ever before. Usually, product- or project-specific teams tend to create a rift in communication among designers. Here, designers need to embrace their design thinking and user-centric processes to manage such design complexities. Products and experiences continue to be designed, each output more elaborate than the previous one. And since teams are spread across locations, decision-making and workflows also need to be distributed. 

Now, reading all this, you might wonder, “How do I get started with DesignOps? Is there any comprehensive guide to DesignOps for beginners? These seem pretty similar to what several design teams do. Why should I adopt DesignOps?” And you are not wrong. The roles mentioned above are not new. They have been here for a while, and numerous organizations adopt them, often labeling them as “design strategies.”

However, there is also a significant difference. DesignOps is the team responsible for these activities. And a few factors work together to influence this dedicated specialization. Organizations expand, with new branches opening at various locations, more people hired, more teams created. As businesses grow, so does the need for more specialists in a design team—UX researchers, visual designers, motion designers, UX designers, and so on. 

However, who is to say that the processes that once worked efficiently will fit in the growing organization? Companies tend to expand their functionalities and product lines beyond headcount growth. Chaos is inevitable in design teams if there is no clear strategy for finding and hiring new team members. Design Operations helps you understand how to deal with such chaos. For instance, it becomes increasingly challenging to generate a consistent experience with the ever-growing platforms to design for. It also becomes crucial to manage 

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coordination and communication across each team involved in the design process. That’s where the DesignOps team comes in. 

DesignOps matters today because it focuses on amplifying these processes. By introducing a DesignOps role, you are not only initiating a structural change, but a cultural transformation. As their understanding of the design process matures and takes shape, people no longer want to be segregated into different teams. Instead, they prefer developers, designers, researchers, and other team members to work together while brainstorming the design process. 

What Does a DesignOps Team Do?

DesignOps provides structured, operations-centric solutions to the hurdles designers may encounter during the process. A designer’s success is usually judged by their speed instead of quality. And the burnout during this hectic process is inevitable. Without the right tools, design solutions, or time, designers find themselves struggling to do their job efficiently. A DesignOps team helps solve these issues by establishing roles that enable professionals to create better products and content.

To streamline a designer’s workflow without jeopardizing quality, the DesignOps team needs to have four key components, which are mentioned below. 

1. Design process

To rework your design process, you need to identify and rectify the loose ends in your current process. You must understand that there might be a lack of communication among teams, an absence of structured guidelines, or off-brand content. Recognize these weaknesses and initiate a process that enhances the workflow. Establish clear standards of success. Give your team a direction so that they get a sense of belonging and an idea of how their roles add to the job. 

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Any DesignOps handbook will reiterate the importance of endorsing good meeting etiquette by eliminating redundant meetings. Instead, encourage design teams to be more productive in important meetings. Determine precise design distribution and delivery by handing out roles as per the skill set. It helps your design team adapt to feedback and make rudimentary changes wherever required, instead of discarding the entire project and rebuilding from the ground up to fulfill the client’s needs.

Get input from stakeholders who work with the team. Find out what’s working for them, and get additional feedback on the design. By evaluating the process every step of the way, the changes you make will lead to a successful final product.

2. Design tools

Choosing what tools your team requires in order to work efficiently is another component of DesignOps. A DesignOps team helps monitor, manage, and control the tools, while ensuring designers get the space to adopt new systems of work. It sets the base for creating components in code so that designers can collaborate with developers to deliver the end result.

3. Design culture

It is highly imperative to establish a design culture that surpasses the cultural shift in a design team. Educate stakeholders across the organization about the significance of good design. It is a vital step towards design thinking.

Brand style guides and workshops are great, but you need to work on empowering every employee to understand and use design in such a way that they will remember its impact in the long run. A strong design culture includes:

  • Sharing information (setting aside some time during office hours to get together and learn about opportunities)
  • Educating the team on digital events, podcasts, etc.
  • Accounting for the team’s checks and balances

4. Team coordination

Team coordination may seem trivial as compared to the other three components, but it is equally vital. Proper coordination gives the team space to focus on creating designs. It makes sure that the design team functions like a well-oiled machine at all times. 

DesignOps aims to maximize the creative value and impact of a design team. As DesignOps continues to grow in size, it is more than something you add as an afterthought to your company’s processes. There is a consistent rise in the UX workload: design teams keep getting dispersed, and every project and request brings in new complexities. In such a scenario, DesignOps becomes a necessity.

People involved in DesignOps help optimize a company’s design infrastructure that benefits everyone involved in the design process. DesignOps is the glue that keeps different teams on the same page so that they can collaborate conveniently and provide clients with quality design services. It has indeed become an inevitable part of an organization for those who want to work smart.

Key Takeaways

  • The key components of DesignOps include how we work together and create impact within and outside the organization.
  • DesignOps matters today because it focuses on amplifying design processes. It helps create a smooth workflow and collaboration system. 
  • A DesignOps team creates compelling and integrated design organizations. It offers structured solutions to the obstacles designers may encounter in the workflow. 
  • A DesignOps team consists of four components: design process, design tools, design culture, and team coordination.

FAQs

1. How can I implement DesignOps?

There are three steps in which you can implement DesignOps. They are:
Research: identify problem spaces and pain points in individuals involved in the project.
Define: understand the role and value of DesignOps to help solve those problems. 
Prioritize: strategize design activities based on priority, and distribute workload according to each person’s capacity.

2. What does a DesignOps manager do?

A DesignOps manager drives and scales project management to ensure that the processes are in place. They ensure the development and delivery of strategic designs.

3. What is UX strategy?

A UX strategy is a detailed plan to link an organization’s brand identity to the required user-centered experience. It should be ideated even before a design takes shape.

4. How can I improve design operations and workflow?

To ensure a smooth design workflow, you must follow these tips

– Keeping a check on the design process
– Using tools that help teams collaborate smoothly
– Establishing consistent collaboration routines 
– Providing transparent career paths to employees
– Recognizing and rewarding hard work

5. What is scalability in design thinking?

Scaling design includes everything from creating a structured work environment across systems to sharing design thinking processes with the people within and outside the team.

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