I always say no to people looking for shortcuts. It’s painful.

Not because I don’t want to help. On the contrary, I love helping people improve their business. But I can’t help people who have the wrong perspective on what they need.

People tell me “I want to take our website to the next level.” or “We want our website to be simple and effective.” There’s a million variants to those statements. All good things. All good things.

Then, I explain the process. I tell them ‘simple and effective’ is a journey, not a feature. That’s when the shortcut-ers feel like they have the wrong number.

Skipping any part of the design process is detrimental to achieving what you want.

“But can’t you just skip ________(insert a part of the design process here)?” they ask. No. Skipping any part of the design process is detrimental to achieving what you want.

Here’s a list of what I’ve been asked to cut and why you don’t want to ask for the same thing.

“I don’t want to pay you to learn about my company and customers. I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

This is the Grim Reaper of all design short-cuts. And you know what hanging around the Grim Reaper will get you.

It may seem logical that, if you could simply tell your designer rather than having her spend time experiencing your company for herself, you’d save time. And time equals money.

But like many things in life, you can’t begin to express something until you’ve felt it yourself. That goes for love, happiness, trust, loyalty, and your business.

So if you cut observation and discovery from the design process, you’re cutting off the moments that, when fully experienced, form the foundation where the most relevant, valuable ideas are born.

Skipping this is like throwing a bunch of seed on gravel and hoping for a bountiful harvest. Sure, some things will trickle down and find dirt to root in. But those are mostly the weeds.

Reason to do it: The most transformative ideas will come from your designer having a deep, intimate understanding of the current experience of your business—what your customers see, hear, touch, taste, and feel at every moment they engage with you.

“I already have wireframes/PSDs/artwork. I just need someone to make it work.”

You don’t need a design team, then. You need a freelance programmer.

But just remember, there’s no chance your programmer will help you fix holes in the experience of your website. He simply doesn’t know the context of your business first hand, and quite possibly doesn’t have the skill set to do it anyway.

And if the designer (or you) skipped any part of the design process, your wireframes or artwork will have holes. It’s inevitable.

One more thing here. Design doesn’t stop after the initial artwork is signed off on. Since websites and apps are something people interact with, the only way to grasp the flow of the experience is to use it. This is where many of the holes are discovered and improved upon.

Reason to do it: The best designers start to create only after they understand the context of the situation and continue to design throughout the entire lifecycle of the project. Design is progressive. Not a one-time event.

“I know what I need. Here’s a list of pages and features I want on my site.”

There’s several subtle issues here that need to be exposed once and for all. It’s great to know what you want. But your list of features does not equal an outcome.

So if you said in the beginning you wanted to “take your website to the next level,” or something similar, you’re looking for what boils down to a qualitative outcome.

Your list of features is not an outcome.

Other qualitative outcomes I hear from people are “easy,” “clean,” and “effective.” All of these denote that the most appropriate experience was given to the user at the most appropriate time. This can only be achieved by following the entire design process. Not jumping straight to programming.

Reason to do it: Features should only be discussed after your designer knows what experience you’re supporting and what your customers value through first-hand observation. Jumping straight to programming is a great way to guess at both of those things. Way back in 2009 Jakob Nielsen wrote that any data is better than no data when making design decisions.

Remember, the context of your business is unique because all businesses are unique. So if you bring in an expert to help you improve your customer’s digital experience of your business, she’ll have to start at the beginning—asking questions and observing. There’s no shortcut to creating what people want. You either create it or you don’t.

If you assume the answers before you even ask the questions, you’ll get no where.

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