How design solves business problems

What is a design task
A designer does not solve a business problem entirely. A business task is always complex and requires the involvement of different specialists. Moreover, the way to solve a business problem can also be different, and not everyone needs a design. It follows that we cannot describe the role of the designer based only on the formulation of the business problem. We need something more specific and closer to our design activities. That is, a design task.

The design problem formulates what exactly and by what means the designer must do in order to make his contribution to solving the business problem. The design task also contains additional requirements and restrictions, which are clarified during the discussion of the future project.

In our company, we write down a business task and the design task that follows from it for each project. This technique allows us not to lose focus during the work process and do exactly what the business requires.

Typical business tasks
We analyzed several dozen design projects over recent years and grouped them according to the types of requests from our clients.

Bring your own developments to the market.
Bring the interface in line with industry standards.
Create a high-level system or product from scratch.
Strengthen your own expertise in the field of UX.
Improve the interface in a targeted manner.
This is not a complete list of all the tasks with which businesses come to designers, this is exclusively our experience, but. But we would still venture to suggest that it is quite typical.

Next, we will give examples of working formulations of business and design tasks and give brief comments about the features of each type of task.
Bring your own developments to the market
Features of business problems of this type

A significant part of the design expertise is located within the client company.
Having a working product requires the customer to bring in external contractors for a fresh, unbiased look.
Design is often considered one of the competitive advantages, so the requirements for it are quite high.
1. Current and voltage calibrator

Business task: bring your own development to the wide market, offering the interface as a competitive advantage.

Design task: to create an interface that will compare favorably with analogues in terms of convenience, speed and aesthetics.

2. Automation of business processes

Business task: create a simplified version of the internal product for another market segment; use a simplified version of the product to attract buyers of the main product.

Design task: analyze similar solutions, identify best practices and, based on them, create an interface for a non-professional user.

3. Platform for neuroresearch (see case)

Business problem: the company operates in the scientific research market and wants to enter the marketing tools market with the same product.

Design task: adapt the interface to another user profile (marketer), without spoiling it for the main profile (scientist), maintaining a balance between simplicity and functionality.
Bring the interface in line with industry standards
Features of business problems of this type

Restrained expectations for UX, design is not used as a competitive advantage.
Clearly fixed functionality that is not subject to major revision.
4. Logistics company

Business task: to modernize the digital component of the business in order to keep up with market standards.

Design task: collect business requirements and draw prototypes that meet these requirements.

5. Consulting for the state

Business task: to get approval from the government customer, who did not accept the intermediate results due to the excessive complexity of the interfaces and insufficient aesthetics.

Design task: to redesign the interface without significantly affecting the logic of the system, so that it meets industry standards for such systems.

6. Polymer supplier

Business task: gain a competitive advantage through a user-friendly website interface integrated with the internal application processing system.

Design task: based on user needs, implement interface solutions that can be integrated with CRM. Prepare prototypes for transfer to development.
Create a high-level system or product from scratch
Features of business problems of this type

The most difficult type of business problem due to high uncertainty.
Lack of clear technical specifications. A mandatory requirement for a design team is to be able to independently formulate a design statement based on vague input.
Design layouts often become a tool for developing and clarifying business requirements.
7. Registry management

Business Objective: Complete a pilot project to secure a contract for the development of the entire system.

Design task: to demonstrate in interfaces that the company understands the requirements of the general customer.

8. Blood pressure monitoring (see case)

Business task: to be the first to occupy a highly specialized niche and gain a competitive advantage by targeting the product at two adjacent audiences.

Design task: to develop a product interface in a limited time according to a high-level (product) formulation.

9. Tourist portal

Business task: in a state of high uncertainty and a large number of features and hypotheses of varying degrees of elaboration, understand in which direction the product should develop.

Design task: test already implemented functionality on users, comparing it with similar services familiar to the user. Test hypotheses on users, having previously drawn ideas in the form of prototypes.

10. Multicomponent medical systems

Business task: create a powerful multi-component system from scratch

Design task: to form the entire visual interface part of the product. Facilitate high-level discussions of business requirements, formulate design statements and ensure delivery of mock-ups for development.
Strengthen your own expertise in the field of UX
Features of business problems of this type

Close work with UX designers, analysts, and developers on the customer side.
Packaging expertise into practically applicable artifacts: UI kit, design system, principles of interface construction.
11. Startup at the intersection of telecom and finance

Business task: strengthen the team with an external senior-level UX designer with experience working on complex modular systems.

Design task: will be integrated into the development process.

12. Automation of business processes (see case)

Business task: to improve the interface at the level of the principles of its creation in order to reduce the load on the technical support service now and in the future and simplify the sales process.

Design task: to completely rebuild the interface structure, develop a UI kit and the principles of its use, demonstrate the assembly of the interface on several sections of the system and transfer the developments for independent support and development of the interface by the customer.

13. Production management

Business task: strengthen your UX expertise and get a tool with which you can provide a fairly good UI in the future.

Design task: using one block as an example, develop a UI kit in close collaboration with the customer’s UX designer.
Improve the interface in a targeted manner
Features of business problems of this type

Small budget for changes.
It is difficult for a designer to limit himself to point-by-point improvements.
The manager or analyst must stay within the scope of the task, using the designer as a consultant rather than as a key performer.
14. Oil and gas company (see case)

Business task: to improve the information portal about procurement so that it better helps internal users.

Design task: to find out the role of the information portal in the procurement process and propose solutions to eliminate the most problematic areas.

15. Brewing equipment store

Business task: assess the feasibility of investing in website development.

Design task: through testing and expert assessment, identify problem areas in the interface so that the business can assess the feasibility and cost of improvements.

16. Hosting provider

Business task: to specifically improve the interface of the personal account, making it clearer for different groups of users.

Design task: to design an interface that adapts to different levels of technical literacy of the user.

* * *
The set of methods that the design team uses in its work is relatively small. Interviews, testing, conceptual and detailed design, creation of a design system. We can continue, but there is no point. Because the solution to a problem is always private. Methods are nothing more than tools that do not themselves answer the question “what will happen as a result.”

Our experience shows that it is important to explicitly record the incoming business task and, together with the customer, formulate a design task, including a brief summary of future work.

Staying focused on the design problem and understanding how it relates to the higher-level business problem is, if not a guarantee of success, then a significant increase in the chances of doing exactly what was intended.
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