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I am currently designing an iOS application. Before I move on, I know that the route we chose to go is not ideal at all.

The app is social networking app. We have a team in India developing the app. We also have an agency in Germany who we have contacted for the design/brand work. Another local designer and I have designed the entire application wireframes and final mockups.

What is the best route for us to deliver these designs to the developers so that we can reduce questions/revisions.

Our plan is the send the agency in Germany our final designs, have them slice the files and create the graphical assets and then deliver those files to our developers.

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5 Answers 5

On a more serious now, there are cultural barriers that you will have to deal with Indian developers. They tend to not be empowered or encouraged to question anything, nor contribute their own ideas. ... realize outsourcing isn't all that great in terms of quality of product delivered.

FYI, You can get high quality product like iPhone or low quality chineez phones form outsourcing only, depending on how much money you spend.

I strongly disagree.

I'm from India working as a UX designer, our developer are sitting in the Netherlands, Australia and India. We are continuously pushing new apps/websites/applications to maket. I'd suggest to follow agile process than waterfall for quick communication and to see progress of the application. You can send initial level of document and wire frames among developers to brainstorm or check technical feasibility of the design. Even dev team can start work and deliver functional s/w without design(to check the progress) and design team can work in parallel.

But I would suggest wire frame team should work ahead of design team. Design team should work ahead of dev team by at least 2 weeks

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That is great, but note your developers are not Indian, therefore would have very different workplace cultures than the one I was commenting on. Also, the iPhone is Chinese :). And yes, there is good outsourcing. But that tends to be the exception rather than the norm. Ultimately, you've suggested the same as I: WATERFALL. :) –  DA01 Mar 10 at 14:12

The best workflow is to be prepared for all the questions and if there are not many, then contact the developers. I would be surprised if any project can go on without questions or just a few, specially with people on different places and with different cultures.

Still, since you have the wireframes, you have to send those to the developers, but ypu also have to send detailed documentation explaining each wireframe and component. Remember that two people may have, at least two opinions about what something means.

At the same time, send the wireframes to the designers so they can start working on their part. Of course, they have to know that the design should be a bit flexible and that things would be "fitted" later during the development process.

As soon as you have elements ready, start assembling them and testing.

But remember, make things super clear, document everything, not to avoid questions, but to make the work easier and to avoid mistakes.

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As someone who has worked on both sides of the fence ( I have worked with an offshore development team while working from US and I am currently leading an offshore development and UX team in India), here is my take on some of the things you should do:

  1. Establish the need very clearly in terms of documentation with regards to what is the expected outcome to both design and development teams.Also explain the various constraints they should be aware of such as device specific parameters, resolutions, use of imagery etc.

  2. Ask the offshore development team to establish two lead persons - One from an Technical and development standpoint and one from an visual standpoint. If you just have one person from a technical standpoint, you will not get responses or inputs with regards to design challenges and potential cases where the design fails

  3. Ask the design team in Germany to establish a design lead who communicates with the technical lead and design lead in India to understand what all has to be sent by the design team while keeping you in loop. While you can also serve as the intermediary , I would recommend direct communication (keeping you in the loop) so that there is nothing lost in translation.

  4. Get a BA to clearly define the user flows and interactions for the both the design teams and the Technical teams. If the user flows and interactions are going to be communicated via phone or email, irrespective of which offshore team you work with you are going to run into issues with mis-communication and missed steps.S

  5. Ask your design team to not only provide visual mockups of the expected screens but also provide redlines so that the development team is aware of the the different font sizes, colors etc. Also ask them to check with the development team lead for samples of redlines other designers have given them so that you can establish the level of fidelity needed

  6. Set up a daily or bi-weekly review to go over the development work\design work including the design\development lead from India and the design lead and ensure the minutes and action items are clearly documented so that the expected issues and action points are not lost in translation

On a side note, Choose a good company to do your design\development work. I know this doesnt answer the OP's question but to claim that all Indian off shoring companies have a low quality of work is just demeaning and highly disturbing. I have worked with a lot of brilliant designers and developers who do quality work and can be trusted to deliver the goods provided there is proper and regular communication but they are not likely to found in the small outsourcing shops which have just sprung up. Hence do your research in choosing the company and see their track record before assigning work to them.

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+1 for steps mention above and rational paragraph at the end:) –  Hem Mar 11 at 13:01

Consider methodology first, then documentation/tooling second. The resources at hand may define what is practical, or how you may be able to steer the project. Two high level choices:

A basic "waterfall" approach. If your goal is to "... reduce questions/revisions." while maintaining a high fidelity with the intended design then a tool like Axure can produce a dynamic prototype that lets you specify an exact dynamic design and very complete documentation, including comments about where flexibility required. You should aim to have as 'perfect and complete' specification as possible at the time, even where visuals and other details not finalised.

A different approach would be to do a quicker and simple dynamic wireframes and then drive high quality communication. I have used http://www.invisionapp.com/ with a remote team very successfully. BUT in an Agile methodology. For that project I was able to give feedback on the work-in-progress development, and developers can query design any time.

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Small nitpick: Axure lets you specify an exact Axure dynamic design. Point being that Axure has limitations compared to building out the interaction natively in JavaScript/HTML/CSS. So beware of those limitations, else what you get back from India may feel more like an Axure prototype than a web site. :) –  DA01 Mar 10 at 14:10
    
JavaScript/HTML/CSS prototypes are often more time consuming than Axure prototypes from a standing start. I occasionally code out of work and could put together something in code but it would take me five times longer and not be as good a quality as someone else building it. Meanwhile Axure I can communicate an idea quickly upto to a certain level, for example doing fixed break point responsive layouts is easy in the new version. Aure is limited but it's not as limiting as if you start thinking in code in my view. –  Stewart Dean Mar 10 at 14:29
    
DAO1, you seems anti-India :) If you get half cooked or wireframe type websites than it is Product owner's mistake in terms of communication. @Stewart dean, try bootstarp, it has more control over responsive designs. Even developement time is quick. –  Hem Mar 10 at 16:19
    
@StewartDean I think that's a matter of opinion and workflow. Certainly a valid opinion, though. I can go both ways. I've used Axure as it's faster at times, but also dove right into HTML/CSS/JS as it's faster at other times--and has the advantage of communicating to the off shore team with the least amount of ambiguity. –  DA01 Mar 10 at 16:40
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I'd rather prefer bi-directional consistent communication and participation from all team members than any process model like waterfall or agile any other day. –  Hem Mar 11 at 13:01

Outsourcing to India is typically only feasible via highly documented waterfall workflows.

The process is typically:

  • document
  • document
  • document
  • send to India
  • receive something that is half way there
  • document some more
  • document some more
  • document some more
  • send to India
  • get something marginally better
  • realize outsourcing isn't all that great in terms of quality of product delivered.

I know that sounds flippant, but that's been my experience at 3 companies that have decided outsourcing dev was the way to do it.

The only success we've had with it was when the UX team took on all the Frond End Development ourselves, sent that over, and had them wire things up. We did that because we eventually realized that the amount of documentation we would have to create to get what we wanted in return far exceeded the amount of work it took to just built the front end ourselves.

On a more serious note, there are cultural barriers that you will have to deal with Indian developers. They tend to not be empowered or encouraged to question anything, nor contribute their own ideas. As such, they are incredibly literal in terms of just doing what you documented and nothing above and beyond that.

Good luck.

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+1 And Indians are not alone in this. You'll likely face this with all Asian cultures. But even with outsourcing companies in Western cultures, you'll face the same predicament. Your goals and the outsourcing companies' goals are likely not aligned. Scrum/Agile helps, but only up to a point. When it comes down to it, having to redo stuff is more income for them as long as they keep you happy enough to stick with them. –  Marjan Venema Mar 10 at 10:32

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