The Case for Slowing Down the Design Process

It seems like rushing around in an effort to finish off projects is part of being a freelance designer. Clients have demands and it’s our job to meet them. And, the faster we get done, the faster we (hopefully) get paid for our efforts.

However, this approach isn’t necessarily the best one for either your health or the overall quality of the project. This is what I like to call the “race to nowhere”.

Of course, it’s easy enough to talk about slowing down. But doing it is an entirely different thing. When you have deadlines to meet and constant demands on your time, how can you possibly take a deep breath?

While we can’t do anything about our existing deadlines, there are some solid reasons to slow down future projects. Here’s why your next project should move at a more manageable pace.

Speed and Carefulness Can’t Coexist

To paraphrase an old saying, if you want it cheap, fast and good – pick two. Achieving all three isn’t all that realistic. But speed alone would seem to indicate that a project would both cost more (so that you can make it your top priority) and result in less attention to detail.

Quite often it seems like the faster we try to work, the more mistake-prone we become. Coding itself is an artform that requires your total attention. Who among us hasn’t missed a comma or semicolon that led to a broken website?

But beyond functionality, working at lightspeed tends to mean that we miss the finer details of a design. Things like subtle effects and microinteractions often turn a good design into a great one. When you look back on your work, you may find that it’s just not up to your standards. It’s not something you’ll want to feature in your portfolio.

There are certainly situations where going full speed ahead is necessary. However, this doesn’t mean that we should make a habit of working this way on every project.

A racing cheetah.

Nice and Easy

Slowing things down a bit can be very beneficial. For one, it enables us to experiment more with various design elements in an effort to find the perfect fit. We can determine, for instance, whether our card layout looks better with or without rounded corners. Or maybe that those call-to-action buttons look better in blue than red.

This extra time also allows for more thorough browser and device testing. It’s never a good idea to push a project out the door while crossing your fingers that it all looks decent on the new iPhone.

Perhaps most importantly, more time means the ability to review key user tasks and processes. This is especially important for critical items such as eCommerce, where any wasted steps could cost you a sale.

When you give a project a little time to breathe, it can provide a welcome boost to the final outcome. You’ll be better able to ensure quality and that things work the way you intended.

A sleeping sloth.

Convincing Clients

One of the key challenges in enacting this change may just be getting your clients on board. Personally, I’ve worked with a number of people over the years who were always in a hurry. This, in turn, has compelled me to do the same.

But just because someone is in a hurry today doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way in the long run. I have seen instances where someone simply had to have it all ready in an instant, then made me wait things out while they took care of their end of the bargain. In those cases, the project usually doesn’t hit the initial deadline.

Therefore, it requires a little bit of tact on our part to demonstrate the benefits of taking more time. Part of this entails asking why they’ve chosen a particular timeline for getting things done. Sometimes, it’s a legitimate reason such as a big conference or a new product launch. In those cases, there might not be much flexibility.

However, there are also times when you will work with those who are just used to everything be done right away. Here, you might have a good shot to convince them to slow their roll. Explain the design process and that, if the ultimate goal is getting it right, that’s going to take an investment of time.

Once a client sees that rushing the process often means cutting corners, they may come around to your way of thinking.

A lotus flower in a body of water.

Worth the Wait

For many of us, the act of getting things done quickly is deeply ingrained. When you have a business to run and bills to pay, it would seem like a natural response.

But good things do indeed take time. And while we can use any number of tools and frameworks meant to improve efficiency, there are still parts of the process that shouldn’t be rushed. Design is right at the top of the list.

So, if you’ve been running around like a cartoon character for each and every project – slow down. Take a look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. You may just find that spending even an extra hour or two on design can lead to some fantastic results.

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