5 Tips for Consistent Design (Despite Your API)

Three people at a table with computers and paper working on a project with a large screen on the wall behind them

Managing design elements inherent in integrated systems to create a cohesive finished product.

What do you do when the vision for a product involves integrating with several distinct systems, each with different design elements and functionality?

We follow a highly collaborative process to ensure the smooth incorporation of distinct APIs into the design and development of a product. The goal is to establish consistency in design and user experience while taking into account the various APIs and business rules.

Below are five important steps to follow:

1. Discovery

Start the project off with a detailed discovery process to ensure that your team has a thorough understanding of the brand, as well as the goals and expectations of the project.

The discovery phase may include the following:

  • A comprehensive review of all branding materials, competitor products, and documentation for existing systems
  • Stakeholder interviews to gain a deeper understanding of the product needs and requirements
  • Development of personas and user stories to capture the requirements of the system
  • A complete technical assessment with a focus on required integrations
  • Fun, in-person discovery exercises and discussions with the client to gather different perspectives and help uncover additional project requirements

2. API audits

This is an indispensable step! 

Web service audits should be performed proactively to create a product that is compatible with any existing systems.

API audits help with the following:

  • Identifying gaps in the APIs early on in the development of the product
  • Informing the creation of more accurate wireframes and designs
  • Giving engineers a heads up of what is coming down the pike
  • Allowing room to make recommendations to improve the API (and, in turn, the products being developed)

3. Documentation

The team needs to document all decisions made on the project to keep a live record of the evolving work. 

Live documentation helps with the following:

  • Establishing transparency between all teams, internally and externally
  • Providing quick access to the reasoning behind why a particular piece of functionality changed over time
  • Maintaining all rounds of revision to evaluate progress and growth
  • Giving team members a place to access relevant verbiage and the rules required to develop the product
  • Providing smooth and easy transfer of information for new team members who may be onboarded mid-project

4. Team collaboration

The use of Agile development practices helps fuel the constant collaboration that is required to develop an integrated product. Internally, our teams are typically comprised of members from the creative (user experience and design), engineering, quality assurance, and client services departments. 

We recommend the following meetings to help encourage collaboration:

  • Sketching sessions
    These ensure that each team member’s expertise is taken into account at the beginning of a sprint.
  • Daily standups
    Standups help establish transparency in each team member’s tasking and prioritization.
  • Project parties
    Showcase the work of all team members and provide engineers with the opportunity to review designs.
  • Bi-weekly sprint planning and retrospective meetings 
    Start the next sprint off on the right track by building upon lessons learned from the previous sprint.
  • API audit syncs
    Team members disseminate the knowledge they gained from the audit to other members on the project, keeping everyone on the same page.
  • Client check-ins
    Collaboration helps move things forward smoothly. We love involving our clients in the project process, as their input is vital to product development.

5. Usability testing and accessibility

We recommend incremental user testing to help identify user expectations and reactions to the work in progress. 

Here are some benefits of usability testing:

  • Issues that might not be apparent in development are made clear during usability testing. Addressing those issues helps us create experiences that meet user needs.
  • Some user feedback can warrant updates to the integrated systems themselves. This helps ignite essential discussions about project scope earlier on in the process.
  • Accessibility audits help ensure that accessibility standards are met. These requirements ensure that users with disabilities can engage with your product.

The key element throughout each of these phases is communication.

Integrations with disparate systems can be managed with ease and efficiency if every team member has a good understanding of the project and feels that they are an integral part of the process.

Following the steps outlined above will ensure that the end product is both exceptionally functional and beautifully designed.

Let us know If you are looking for the right team to help with your project.