The Design Process
+ Frequently Asked Questions
The Stages of Design
Stage 1: Discovery
In this stage, we spend time analyzing and deconstructing the documentation, any pre-existing wireframes or application screens - if applicable, conduct internal discussions regarding design direction & user experience, and external meetings with stakeholders.
Stage 2: Initial Prototype Design
After an initial kick-off meeting with our client via telephone or web conference, we begin prototyping the application’s main layout, navigation and visual design language, along with quantifying the ease-of-use of the interaction & experience design. This typically takes 5-10 business days, depending on the application’s complexity. Once The Skins Factory has a viable prototype candidate(s) they are presented to the client for review, where your team will have a chance to decide which direction to take the main screen and whatever modifications are needed. During this stage, we explore the fundamental underlying DNA for the visual design language. Once the main candidate is approved, we move on to Stage 3: Propagation.
Stage 3: Propagation
Once the final prototype is approved, The Skins Factory will work its way through the scope of work systematically - section by section, working closely with your team. The design language from the approved prototype will be adapted & deployed to the remaining screens, as we establish & enhance the ongoing interaction and user experience throughout the application.
Stage 4: Source File Assembly
Once Stage 3 has been completed & approved, the deliverables are organized into a core set of Adobe Photoshop CC .PSD file(s) containing optimized (merged into as few compositing layers as possible) graphics for each distinct graphical element and any associated states ready for export by your code developers.
These constitute the source files & final deliverables. No coding or exportation of images is involved.
Frequently Asked Questions
Project Expansion + Costs
How do you cost out projects?
Depending on the project, we offer fixed rates (preferable) or blocks of time or a combination of both. We use a simple method to cost out projects - we review the entire scope of work or request for proposal, estimate how many hours the project will take from start to finish and multiply the hour estimate by our hourly rate to come up with a fixed rate. We’ve been doing this for over18 years, and are really good at figuring project costs. If the project takes longer, there are no additional charges provided the reason is not scope expansion. If it takes a slightly shorter duration, there are no refunds.
- For U.S. Clients, we require a non-refundable retainer before we start of 50% of the total project cost. The remaining 50% is due upon completion of the project and before we turn over the final source files.
- For non-U.S. Clients, we use a multiple retainer system. We require a non-refundable retainer of 50% when we start and the remaining 50% before we start the 2nd half of the project. We will discuss the break point for the 2nd half milestone.
In both cases, we are willing to send a portion of the completed PSDs to you, so your developers can get started on coding. Your success is important to us.
What if we need to expand the Project Scope after we’ve started?
After we sign and execute a Master Design Agreement, the initial Scope of Work is “locked in” since costs are based solely on the project scope you initially provided.
You can always add more scope to the project.
It’s a simple process where you submit an additional Scope of Work, we cost it out, and if the costs are accepted, we deliver to you an Addendum Agreement. Once signed, the new Scope of Work becomes part of the project. We can also offer blocks of time. These are prepaid time blocks. We record our time usage using a Google Doc Spreadsheets that your team can view at any time. Any leftover time at the end of the project gets deducted from the final payment. You never pay for time you don’t use.
Please note, the costs for the addendum and time blocks are due up front as the new Scope of Work will push the completion date further into the future.
What are your deliverables?
The deliverables are organized Adobe Photoshop CC .PSD file(s) containing organized + optimized (merged into as few compositing layers as possible) graphics for each distinct graphical element and any associated states ready for export by your code developers. We often deploy a Photoshop feature called “Layer Comps”. Using layer comps, we can create, manage, and view multiple application screens in a single Photoshop file. By activating a layer comp, only the layers for that particular comps are turned on. This expedites a developer’s workflow by not having to search a .PSD that has a multitude of layers and folders.
No coding or exportation of image is ever involved.
Initial Project Start
How long until we see the first design candidates (marker comps)?
This typically takes 5-10 business days (every project is different), during which time we will explore various approaches and narrow down the best initial candidates for presentation. The complexity of the product is also a determining factor.
What kind of design reviews would You hold - how many?
Because the design process is fluid by nature, we will submit artwork for your review as it is designed, often with notes explaining direction and thinking behind what you’re seeing. We use utilize the world’s leading design collaboration platform, InVision, where our team and yours, can collaborate. This comes in handy when the project has been completed and you want to refer back to notes and comments made during production. We also communicate via email or teleconference - whichever is most convenient for you and your team. We find regularly scheduled (specific weekday) drops and review meetings slow down the process, as there will be likely weeks upon which you receive multiple drops for review and others where there may be no drops.
How do you start creating a design? How do you take user experience (UX) into consideration?
What is your definition of a good designing approach vs a bad designing approach?
When a software application is new or drastically redesigned, all users should be considered “new” users. Good design involves helping your software users navigate through unfamiliar territory. We accomplish this by providing easy-to-use navigation, intuitive content & productivity layouts, and when necessary, subtle onboarding. We deploy ample white space throughout the UI, to promote a sense of calm and purpose. We put great importance on the look & feel of the design, as we believe that form & function should be symmetrical for the software application to be successful.
How do you approach mobile adaptive vs desktop designs?
While some products lend themselves to adaptive design directly from the desktop browser, some definitely require hands-on adaption to scale in order to deliver the same functionality from one presentation model to the other. In projects where both are required, we generally tackle the desktop version first. Depending on the nature of the application, mobile can be embarked upon while desktop is still in development and they can be executed in tandem. We don’t adhere to the “one-size-fits-all” scenario when it comes to designing both, desktop and mobile UIs. Each environment is inherently different in terms of functional space and interaction, and should be designed separately so that we can deliver an experience that best serves each platform.
What do you think differentiates you from others in your industry?
Few studios can match The Skins Factory’s experience or the consistent quality of our work. This is why we display large, bold examples of our design work in our portfolio. We think our work stands out from the crowd - we’re trend-setters.
We see past current design trends and endeavor to take the design further, so that our clients can use our designs for a longer period of time - thus giving our clients a better ROI. We know that good interaction and user experience design means you shouldn’t have to read a manual to understand what’s going on. Your end-users lead busy lives, and a great user interface needs to get out of the way, so they can get their work done as quickly as possible. That’s what we deliver.