What is Designops?

DesignOps is an industry term for all the activities that allow design teams to work effectively. The purpose of running a DesignOps department is to maximize your design operation’s impact both internally and for your customers.

Nielsen & Norman define it DesignOps as

Design Operations, or the orchestration and optimization of people, process, and craft to amplify design’s value and impact at scale — aims to establish procedures and measures that support scalable solutions for common design-team challenges.

Internally, DesignOps allows your team to run on the same operating system. That means, same naming conventions, software stack, processes, etcetera. Having a common understanding of these areas is critical to keep your design team running smoothly.

Why is DesignOps Important?

the importance of designOps by WANDR Product Strategy and UX Design Agency

As design teams grow in size, so does the complexity around how designers work together. That complexity affects how design collaborates with the other areas in the company, particularly development.

The lack of DesignOps in teams of more than three people can dramatically impair your design team’s performance.

Imagine that you have a design team of 10 people all working on the same design system. Suppose they don’t have a clear shared language for naming the elements in the system. In that case, each designer will start introducing their creative version of it, causing duplicates and introducing inconsistency.

As we discussed in our Design Systems for SaaS article, product inconsistencies create expensive and time-consuming bugs and provide a poor experience for the final user.

The Levels of DesignOps

Depending on the team’s size, the DesignOps department blends activities that would typically be associated with Human Resources, Finances, IT, and, of course, design.

WANDRs designOps levels, ranked #1 UX Design Agency in LA

Depending on the team’s size, the DesignOps department blends activities that would typically be associated with Human Resources, Finances, IT, and, of course, design.

Wandr’s DesignOps Levels

  • Internal
  • Interdepartmental
  • External

The Internal Level of DesignOps

The internal level of DesignOps refers to all the activities and processes that help everyone inside the design team work effectively with one another.

The internal level of DesignOps accounts for:

Design System Maintenance

These are all the best practices and conventions that contribute to keeping a usable, healthy, and actionable [design system]. They include naming conventions and UX patterns.

Tool Stack

DesignOps should strive to ensure that everyone is working on the same set of tools and versions. This prevents incompatibility issues that can seriously affect productivity.

Hiring, Onboarding, and Personal Development

DesignOps takes care of hiring the right type of talent that fits the technical requirements and the cultural environment. It should also set up processes for onboarding new hires and projecting their career paths inside the organization.

Performance Evaluation

DesignOps is responsible for evaluating the performance of the design team and providing proper feedback. It does this by setting up measurable goals during the personal development activities that it carries out with each new hire and team member.

Shared Research Knowledge

One of the most critical tasks for DesignOps is to make sure information is discoverable and actionable. If one team gets new customer insights, everyone should be aware of those discoveries to prevent wasting efforts on carrying out the same research twice.

Prioritization & Workflows

What should we do first, and who should do it? DesignOps should be responsible for creating processes that allow the design team to focus their efforts on what’s most valuable for the company at any given time. It should also provide a way for the design team to give visibility into everyone’s progress on each project and task.

the internal level of designOps discussed by WANDR Studio

The Interdepartmental Level of DesignOps

This level refers to the processes and activities that determine how the design team interacts with the rest of the organization. Design is inextricably related to development, for both are responsible for creating the product. Most of the interdepartmental-level processes of DesignOps focus on communication between design and development.

The internal level of DesignOps accounts for:

Collaboration & Handoff

DesignOps is responsible for creating processes and standards for exchanging files, communicating design specs, auditing the product, and providing feedback. The collaboration needs to be two-ways. So the procedures should cover how development manages requests to the design team and how both teams work together to work out and plan product functionality.

Socialization

It’s essential for the health of the entire organization for DesignOps to create awareness around the importance of design and the different functions inside its department or team. DesignOps should create spaces for the designers to share the benefits of user-centered design and how it impacts the product’s success.

The External Level of DesignOps

This refers to the interaction between the design team and the organization’s stakeholders, primarily the end-users.

The external level of DesignOps accounts for:

User Testing & Prototyping Protocols

DesignOps is in charge of setting up protocols for conducting testing, which is vital for every product company. This includes processes for sourcing testers, setting up research methodologies, and analyzing data.

Feedback Data Management

These are the processes for handling customer feedback. DesignOps is responsible for creating methods for classifying feedback from customer support and user testing into easily accessible databases for the design team to prioritize and execute.

the interdepartmental and external levels of designOps brought to you by the team of expert designers of WANDR Studio

Conclusion

While the scope of DesignOps can be beneficial, not all organizations have the size or infrastructure for a comprehensive DesignOps strategy that will cover all of the above.

You don’t have to work on all the activities that the WANDR’s DesignOps Levels offer. Still, it will help you understand what falls under the DesignOps umbrella to be aware of all the possible ways to improve the quality of your design team.

To get the most benefits out of a DesignOps strategy, we only recommend it for design teams of 4 people or more. As I explained initially, the bigger the organization, the greater the importance of having robust processes in place.

Do you need help setting up your DesignOps department or strategy? Book a call with our team.

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