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What is Iterative Design? The Definitive Guide for 2024

May 25, 2023

Mile Zivkovic

Iterative design is a powerful concept that can help you ship products more quickly and efficiently. Here is everything you need to know about it.

Did you know that it takes an average of two to five months to design a website? And at the end of that process, there are probably countless bugs, glitches, and issues that should have been prevented.

Even with so many amazing design and collaboration tools nowadays, the process can still be lengthy and overly complex. Instead of changing the tools, try and change your approach to a modern one - and use iterative design.

Today, we’re going to talk about iterative design - what it is, why it’s beneficial for designers, and how you can start using it in your team.

What is iterative design?

An iterative design implies thinking of designs in terms of iterations. Instead of delivering one finished design, designers break a bigger project into smaller pieces and work on them continuously to make changes rapidly.

Imagine that instead of a finished product, you deliver a wireframe first and then send it off to product/development for feedback. You then work on the wireframe and add the basic design elements such as the basic brand colors and page elements - keeping those consistent with your logo design and other visuals. Then you test that part and quickly move on to the next step of the design process.

iterative design graph
Source

Think of it as a method of rapid prototyping, feedback, and adjustments based on that feedback. Something like an agile methodology, but for designers.

The aim of using the iterative design is to work in fast sprints, prototype and get feedback, make changes based on that feedback, and treat the design as an ever-changing work in progress that needs to satisfy the needs of your customers.

The benefits of an iterative design process

You’re probably aware of some benefits of using iterative design already, but let’s put it into perspective by comparing it with a traditional design and development approach.

It’s cheaper

A traditional waterfall design approach means driving a project all the way through and then making changes according to user feedback. This usually means that if there are some errors and UX/UI issues, you can only spot them at the very end. And at that point, fixing them costs much more time and money than you would spend if you fixed them early on.

It’s better for collecting and applying feedback

With each new design iteration, your team can collect feedback from customers and other stakeholders in the company. They can apply it immediately and shape the design in a way that meets everyone’s requirements rather than winging it and hoping that the final version is useful. This also facilitates a better customer experience and cooperation within your team.

iterative design graph 2
Source

It’s more transparent

At any point in time, anyone from the design, development or any other team can gain visibility into what you’re designing at the moment. Since the work is done in sprints, it’s easy to look at the progress done in the last sprint plan, instead of having to wait weeks or months for a finished design.

It’s easier to work on more things at the same time

Iterative design allows more teams to work on different things at the same time. For example, one designer could work on the UX while another one is in charge of adjusting page elements that developers had issues with.

It’s easier to catch errors, bugs, and other issues

No designer is perfect and even professionals can make errors based on assumptions and things that worked previously. In iterative design, a product is tested at the same time as designers are working on it. This ensures that even if there are bugs, you can spot them right away instead of months later in the finished product. For example, if customers reach out and report errors through your call center software, you can edit them quickly.

The downsides of using iterative design

You may be thinking that using this approach is perfect for any design team, but nothing in this world is perfect.

It will take your team time to adjust

If you’ve never implemented an agile methodology in your business, introducing iterative design could be met with some disagreement. The best approach you can take is to educate design and product team leaders about how to use this approach and have them as your pioneers in the workplace.

You’ll need great project management

To stay in the loop with ongoing sprints and design projects, you need a capable project manager (or a few) qualified in agile methodology to hold the strings together. Projects are going on simultaneously, unlike a waterfall methodology where one phase starts once the previous phase is finished.

Even when you take these disadvantages into consideration, using iterative design is massively beneficial for everyone involved - your team and your customers.

How to get started with iterative design in your team

By now, we hopefully have your attention and you want to implement an iterative approach in your design operations. Here is how to get started.

  1. Don’t be afraid to outsource some design

Sometimes, a fresh perspective on things can improve your design work greatly. You can buy off-the-shelf software and designs that fit into your existing website and product and save time and money rather than going custom. Moreover, those bits of software can easily fit into an iterative design process.

For example, you can get an embedded analytics dashboard from Luzmo instead of building one yourself. It takes days (sometimes hours) to implement and you can launch it quickly instead of spending countless hours on design and development.

  1. Use version control

The basis of any iterative development and design process is to have different versions of the product available. That way, if things go south, you can revert to a previous version without losing much progress.

  1. Use intuitive design apps that allow collaboration

It’s 2023 and design is the type of work that can and should be done in the cloud. There are plenty of apps such as Figma or Invision that let you design and collaborate with your team online. That way, everyone can work on a project at the same time and they can leave feedback in the same document.

Invision app
Collaboration in Invision
  1. Start small

Don’t redesign an entire website with an iterative approach as your first project. Think of something small like a landing page redesign that your design, development or product management team can work on. It’s easier to get team buy-in if they’ve tried it themselves on a project first. Once your team gains confidence and experience with the landing page redesign, they can explore using the landing page builder to develop future projects.

Wrapping up

Using iterative design in your business can make your designers’ lives easier and your customers happier. And while it may seem like an additional set of steps in your design process, it’s actually far simpler and more intuitive than a more traditional waterfall approach.

And we can help you get started today! With Luzmo, you can get an embedded dashboard for your SaaS product quickly and easily. Add it to your software and iterate as your customers and team leave feedback. With Luzmo, you can launch a dashboard in hours - not weeks or months.

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