What Is DesignOps and Why Is It Important?
UX design is a key differentiator that enables businesses to win and retain more satisfied customers. The speed, convenience, and intuitiveness of an online experience can turn a customer into a raving fan. And an outdated, difficult-to-navigate experience has the potential to turn away droves of potential customers.
Since this is the case, organizations have begun to dedicate more resources to intentionally crafting digital experiences that captivate users. And because of that, they are needing to rethink how they structure their development process in order to maintain a competitive edge by executing a cohesive vision across expanding UX teams.
DesignOps (sometimes abbreviated as DesOps) is a term that has emerged to describe the mindset and process by which this goal can be achieved. It’s an extension of the idea of DevOps, which seeks to break down silos across departments to increase development efficiency through collaboration. The distinction is that DesignOps focuses on this agility specificly with regard to engineering UX.
As the term is gaining popularity across the industry, it’s important to note that DesignOps is far more than a buzzword. It’s a movement in UX design that is enabling organizations to maintain efficiency as they seek to deliver modern UX design.
The Problem That DesignOps Addresses
DesignOps isn’t necessarily solving a new problem. Rather, it tackles a common challenge that has presented itself in a new context.
Whenever a team, department, or business grows, the added complexity creates bottlenecks. Decisions are slowed and employees can be frustrated by organizational friction and lack of clear communication across teams. This friction requires a new way of managing projects that increases efficiency across the organization.
Such a challenge has presented itself in the area of UX design. As Emily Stevens points out, the last two years have seen an increase in specialization of UX professionals, including such roles as UX researchers, UX writers, and information architects. These new emphases and team roles continue to drill down on the details that make for a truly intuitive and inviting user experience. However, this added specialization makes for larger teams to be managed under a unifying vision.
Additionally, new technologies such as micro frontends have created greater autonomy for cross-functional teams, which has increased any one team’s ability to quickly develop, deploy, or update a given feature or application functionality. With a larger number of teams able to work independently, DesignOps is a way to make sure that the entire organization is still designing cohesively.
How DesignOps Helps
DesignOps defines and executes a cohesive vision for the design processes of the organization and can be managed by a single person or a group of people. The goal is to increase cross-team communication and decrease friction in the service of creating user-centric design. Implementing DesOps requires both a mindset and a set of guiding principles for an organization to increase effective collaboration.
This level of intentionality is critical for expanding teams, as well as for teams that are increasingly scattered across multiple offices and remote workplaces. DesignOps also seeks to seamlessly bring together modern design elements that have a high level of technical sophistication, pulling together the specialized skills of developers and teams.
At the heart of it, DesignOps seeks to leverage design to accomplish business outcomes. Far more than simply developing a beautiful site or application, an organization investing in DesOps pays attention to the way current design technologies and methodologies can be integrated to produce UX that measurably increases customer acquisition and retention.
How to Implement DesignOps
Organizations can implement DesignOps in a number of key ways.
Some businesses may opt to hire a dedicated DesignOps manager to facilitate communication and oversee the entire UX development process. Such a manager need not be an incredibly gifted designer with a particular speciality themselves, though they ought to have a deep understanding of what makes an overall design truly user-centric.
Successful DesOps professionals bring an operational perspective and project management skills to design processes, as they will oversee design workflows, governance, and budget. They will develop lines of communication across the organization that decrease friction and acculturate the organization to highly value UX design.
On the other hand, hiring a dedicated DesignOps manager may be cost prohibitive for some organizations, or a design team may be too small to warrant such a hire. However, that doesn’t mean that they are unable to begin cultivating a DesignOps culture. Company leaders can begin working to increase communication and collaboration. One way to do this is to create a repository of common elements that can be used and reused across teams and that serve as a centalized point of reference.
Any way that organizations can break down silos between UX teams contributes to successful DesOps implementation.
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