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We have three – more or less – competing designs of the same topic. All of the designs have something that works and doesn't work which are quite easy to spot. The designs have a bit different structure and visual look and now we have hard time deciding which approach to choose. What would be the optimal way to merge the designs? I suggested a workshop where we go through all the designs and identify pros and cons. But I'm not sure will this work to clarify the visual direction. Do you have experience of merging designs? How did you do it?

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    I wouldn't normally be merging designs that "have a different look" - I would merge at wireframe stage before anyone develops any "style": you want to settle functionality before you develop a visual language. I would suggest that you strip your designs back to wireframes, merge the functionalities that you want, then get someone to develop the visual style from scratch. – Andrew Martin Dec 20 '17 at 12:38
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    @AndrewMartin this would make a solid answer IMO. – Racheet Dec 20 '17 at 13:40
  • Thanks for your comment. You're absolutely right. These are still concepts but we shouldn't have gone this far with the styling. Better put the work on hold and revert back to the wireframes. – imakesoft Dec 20 '17 at 13:45
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I have some experience both proposing several design options, and also moving from one visual language to another. Personally I'd recommend to:

  • Create some kind of interface inventory, to better understand what UI components and patterns are being used, and what their functionality is. What are they trying to solve? What is the use case? As part of this exercise I'd emphasis on keeping what's working well, and removing the things that are not.
  • In addition to this, I'd consider doing some light-weight stakeholder interviews to understand if there are differences in what each stakeholder prefers, and what each stakeholders want to achieve with the project. Maybe certain stakeholders are already biased towards a specific design. In that case it's important to figure out who is the final decision maker.
  • In the end, whichever new design that is created, I'd recommend to test the design with real users to ensure the updated design works, and present the findings from that test (with any needed updates done to the design) back to the project stakeholders.
  • I know it might sound strange but we are lacking a proper stakeholders and decision makers. One idea was to present these concepts, gather feedback and then decide which direction to continue. Like you said, some managers might already have vision of the direction. Now we as designers need to make the decisions and of course everyone would go with their solution. :) I think we will revert to wireframes to focus on the structure and functionalities (like @AndrewMartin mentioned) and then create one visual style for the project. – imakesoft Dec 20 '17 at 14:07
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    Interesting! The lack of proper stakeholders / decision makers sounds like an issue on its own. If no clear ownership maybe it's possible for the UX team to take ownership and drive the decisions? :) And to avoid (some of the) subjective feedback, basing the decisions on research and testing may help. – Andreas Johansson Dec 20 '17 at 14:34
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    That's exactly what we are doing, taking the ownership and making decisions to be able to continue. Unfortunately, it doesn't mean that the management won't give their input when we are almost ready to launch. You are correct that this is also a management and process problem. Not just a design challenge. – imakesoft Dec 21 '17 at 12:47

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