This is yet another episode of Yellow Insight, and the topic we had was very much needed as designers who want to design world-class solutions. They say change is constant, and it is human nature to embrace change, whether voluntary or involuntary. The same principle applies to design and design processes; human needs and wants are insatiable, so our design systems should be tailored to leave an impact in the minds of the users. Let’s hear from the man and master behind the overall design at Monster India, Alok Sharma.

Alok Sharma:

Yellow Slice runs on the premise of creativity, which is evident in our stack of projects and case studies; however, if we keep dishing out without refilling, there will be nothing to draw from, so we need a well of knowledge and creativity to refill our bright minds.

Alok Sharma is a seasoned designer with a wealth of experience enough to feed a generation of passionate designers. He started as a web designer and climbed up the career ladder with valuable lessons he shared with us. 

He moved on to wear many hats in the UX design industry. You can call him a jack of all specialization and a master at all. He was a consultant, a UX Designer director, a research director, and now the head of the design team at Monster India, known as Foundit. He has worked with companies like PharmEasy, Zenoti, and HCL Technologies.

Before we started, he mentioned his experience in product-based companies and the service industry, so he has a perfect blend of a fast-paced working environment and an understanding of the peculiarities of every client and their domain industry.

Some of our designers have attested to the practicality of Monster India in their job search phase, and we now know one of the brains behind the usability and functionality of their product. So, let’s get into the nitty gritty of evolving our design and design process.

Design Process

The event started with an insightful tip relevant to the rest of the discussion: “How to keep evolving your design process”. This made us understand that processes are not fixed; they can be altered as needed. Then, he gave us two types of processes: internal and cross-functional.

The internal process is the day-to-day approach to getting things done, such as the lean methodology, the double diamond approach, etc. He emphasised that we don’t focus on cross-functional processes, so his teaching leaned more towards them.

Have you ever heard of the minimum loveable product? I guess not!

Over Alok’s years of experience, he has found the need to balance user’s needs and business goals. He explained that is what product design is all about; he’d rather use the term Product design over UX Design.

Cross-Functional Process

To work on the practicality of his Cross-Functional Process of product design, he mentioned their motto, which is a minimum loveable product as opposed to a minimum viable product. It shifts the focus and KPI from the market POV to the user. This allows his team to focus on if:

  • UX is enjoyable to use
  • Building user loyalty
  • Delightful UX
  • Building a positive brand image

The next thing he discussed was that design is not usually included when discussing tech solutions. Many design teams fall under either the product team or the tech team, which he does not agree with. He explained that this can restrict designers’ freedom to focus on user-centricity. He is of the opinion that Design needs a seat at the table. So, he proposed PDT instead of PT in his organization and strongly recommended the same solution.

  • P= Product
  • D= Design
  • T= Technology

Moving on, a cross-functional design process can be achieved by Revised Structuring. This allows the designers to break isolations, provide holistic and innovative solutions and expand the user base. Alok also talked about Inculcating the value of experimentation and innovation, which focuses on using unique ideas to solve problems and move designers to use their full potential.

What comes to your mind when you hear of the North Star experience?

Like a journey far away to find a treasure cave, right? If that’s your guess, then you are not so far from Alok’s explanation. He taught us to make designs that encapsulate the future by being scalable and flexible; it would also give a broad perspective to the product. The process of trying to accommodate future plans or trends is the North Star experience. So, as designers seek to evolve their design and design process, always focus on the North Star experience.

He wrapped up the cross-functional process with Revised Responsibilities. He talked about his organization, where the designers are in the last production cycle, unlike many firms, where designers are only involved in the early stage. This helps them cross-check if the designs are functioning the way they ought to and check for any alteration in the business and production stages. It gives him the satisfaction that the product is fit to go live. The designers should take up the roles of Maker and Checker.

One would think that was all to what he had to say

That was a lot to learn from, and one would think that was all he had to say, but he had extra candies for us—he gave a few insights into evolution in design.

  1. Never forget to study your direct and indirect competitors
  2. Demography is very important while conducting research
  3. User habits are more important
  4. Let your users spend more time on what they want

Question and Answer

Our yellow insights don’t end without thought-provoking questions from our designers, who are always eager to learn and evolve! Here are snippets of questions that were raised:

You talked about MLP as opposed to MVP. If I want to move to MLP, are there any changes in the KPI? What should I keep in mind?

Of course, there are changes! The decision is not always based on data. For MLP, we need to gauge how exactly your users are experiencing the product. So, the KPI to gauge is our research. You need a good research team to determine whether the users are having a good time with the product. You need to learn about their experience with the product. By just calling out the name of your product, they think about the experience, like the feeling you get when you hear of Starbucks, so it is not just data-driven but also emotion-driven.

How do we break free from the complacency of being used to a particular process, just like how our users might find it difficult to switch from a bad UX to a good UX because they are comfortable with it?

I would like to correct your notion that users are comfortable with a bad UX or do not want changes or a better solution. Changes are introduced in one shot, which can be pretty much overwhelming, right? So, the approach is to gradually introduce those changes and check their behaviours and feedback on how well they are moving with the change. You need to categorize and push the changes out in batches rather than just throwing everything at once.

So, I have two questions. Do you think that sometimes design gets compromised due to the business goals and application from the tech side?

The second question is, what is the transition phase like for a new team member? It can be a little overwhelming on the first day, so what will the process be like?

That is an excellent question, second question first. When somebody joins your team as a fresher, you have to give them the essential information they need to come on board, not blockers—like information about relationships between the team members or trying to morph their ideas about team members. So just tell them about the problem, what needs to be solved, and how we have solved it. 

In my years of experience, whenever somebody new joins in, they always come up with better ideas and look at your product from a fresh perspective because they do not have constraints like the work culture and biases towards the project and team members.

To answer the second question, a design can be compromised, especially when the design team is under the tech team. That was the reason for my second point: to change the structure from only product and technology to product, design, and technology. The three teams need to understand each other’s complexities and each other’s freedom of innovation to give the best output.

It is not the end of learning, just the end of a session.

The session ended amid the teeming questions and clarifications. He reiterated that everything he taught us was a recap of his experience and learning over the years, as evident in the series of examples and illustrations he used. 

The session was very interactive, as our designers had questions and their inputs to give. We started the session obscure about evolving, but now our designers are confident in their ability to evolve and make products that users want.