DesignOps, opening the doors to new UX frontiers


By Mark Troester*
Friday, 25 June, 2021

DesignOps, opening the doors to new UX frontiers

DevOps — first coined as a term in 2009 — has become a key element of software development and IT operations at large.

Most organisations have become familiar with this approach and are now turning their attention to a new phenomenon, DesignOps, which is set to create as much if not more heat in the next decade.

The exact date that DesignOps appeared is not as clear, but it was deeply influenced by DevOps, and follows its own concepts such as atomic design, design thinking and more.

Both DevOps and DesignOps are critical to the introduction of great applications and user experiences. They are also key to the speed of software delivery and aim to provide continuous value throughout the development process.

They share many of the same principles, and challenges, including:

  • a focus on people and process, with support from technology and digital tools;
  • a collaboration of different people within the business, each with different job responsibilities, personalities, goals and measurement frameworks;
  • both involve the use of different tools and technologies to achieve one unique goal;
  • a similar coordination mindset, often leading to similar collaboration issues if the approach is not set right from the beginning;
  • shift left/shift right is relevant to both.

Now, what DesignOps is bringing to the table is the ability for organisations to go beyond DevOps and add to the puzzle an important piece that has often be forgotten, or de-prioritised: design.

Design is a core element to software and application development. It is what can make or break user adoption. It is the core to successful user experience (UX), which we all know is essential to meet consumers’ and employees’ expectations in today’s world.

The new UX frontier

While UX is not a new field, interest is now at an all-time high, driven by many factors:

  • Easy access to technology in the developed world has placed digital in virtually everyone’s reach.
  • Digital giants and early innovators have delivered experiences that have raised expectations for all.
  • Competitive consumer and job markets demand the best customer, employee and partner experiences — as workers or employees, we now expect systems that support our work to be consumer quality, or we may bypass what we get from our IT organisations.
  • The pandemic has placed even more pressure to leverage tech in a physically disconnected world.

Marketers have long understood the impact of design in their branding, demand generation and customer engagement efforts. Design and application development is many times more a marriage of necessity.

Developers and DesignOps

In many cases, developers are not as interested in design, or may not have a design-oriented view of the world as marketers. And while designers have always had a natural place within a marketing organisation, that has not always been the case with IT and Development.

This needs to change for organisations to be successful in today’s world.

As consumers we can all appreciate the need for seamless digital and in-person interactions. Context switching between work and home life, between car, plane, mass transit and being home on the couch and re-entering the office the next day. As humans, and users of technology, we appreciate organisations that cater to our changing needs and environments.

Making design front and centre in the next Dev decade

We may or may not notice every aspect of design, but we know which brands provide experiences that are fulfilling, that make us feel good.

Developers need to fight the urge to think that design and usability is just about size, font choice and colours, or thinking that design can be outsourced.

We need to think more holistically and inclusively when doing user and requirements research to eliminate unconscious bias, and to truly build a connection with users so that we can deliver unsurpassed experiences.

Designers on their end need to ensure that DesignOps efforts are not focused solely on gaining efficiencies within the design team, and that they inform an efficient way to support a continuous Design to Dev process.

Designers and dev teams today need to advocate the use and value of design thinking design systems, and so on to their counterparts — marketers, developers, executives — while also demonstrating the business impact of the design investment.

Just as DevOps has provided better collaboration between developers, IT Ops, testers and security professionals — which led to faster and more frequent delivery of digital assets — effective DesignOps efforts can drive significant business value:

  • Increased marketing and sales effectiveness through more effective customer interactions.
  • Better employee engagement leading to efficiencies and better customer service.
  • Stronger brand equity that drives positive awareness and customer/employee fulfilment.
  • And overall, increased user adoption and satisfaction.

DesignOps will lead the next decade of software and application development, and it is important everyone from dev and ops teams to designers understands their role in making this happen.

*Mark Troester is VP of Strategy at Progress

Image credit: ©

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