No-handoff cheat sheet

In the no-handoff approach all disciplines revolve around improving the end user experience. They work together from day 1 to day infinity, with no handoff periods in between. To achieve the mental shifts required and promote fuller team integration I take three simple steps – a shared vocabulary, shared goals, and a shared primary communication tool. Welcome to no-handoff, cheat sheet version!

1) Shared vocabulary and banishing “design”:

The first step on a no-handoff team is to throw out the word “design” from your project vocabulary. The words we often use to discuss design are limited in their usefulness for a web project — developers probably dont need to think about gestural marks, nor do security specialists need to mull over the proper amount of negative space — but the goals of design are universal. Reaching users with a message, evoking a response, providing a positive experience, are all concepts and goals relevant to the diverse disciplines that go into building a website. Once you banish the word ‘design’ from your team’s vocabulary, and visual interfaces are discussed from the perspective of user behavior, it allows the team to consult together. Ironically banishing the word “design” leads to better design. When all team members, including web designers and UI specialists, can explain their work based on its user experience implications then the team will be speaking a shared language.

Early team discussions can be like an awesome game of ‘Taboo’. When we discuss topics we traditionally might call “design” team members are forced to find more accurate ways to describe their thinking and intentions. “Hows the design coming along?” becomes more specific: “Is this lo-fi navigation UI accomplishing its user goals?”. “What is the rationale behind the signup form coming before the gallery in the wireframe?”. “How does this element support positive user behavior?”.

2) Shared goals:

The next critical component of the no-handoff method is generating a list of shared goals the entire team is striving for, framed in terms of user experience. Design is a shared goal. Other common goals include Security, Accessibility, and Functionality. Write a descriptive sentence or two describing what constitutes ‘done’. For example: “Meeting our Accessibility goal means we will meet WCAG2 AA standards and take into account other forms of ‘impairment’ including jargon-literacy and slow internet connections”. Most disciplines on a web development team will already see some backlog tasks forming in their minds from even this very short description.

3) Shared in-browser wireframe:

And the third component is the use of in-browser wireframes from the very beginning. In our no-handoff projects we no longer use Sketch, InVision or similar mockup tools. All interface reviews are done in-browser with an interactive and responsive wireframe. Wireframes are the shared language of the web. They instantly cross all disciplines and stakeholder roles, and leapfrog right over many potential communication issues. A no-handoff project leverages their power to communicate from day one.

Add these 3 steps to your agile process and you are on your way to greater integration of teams and eliminating handoff. Let me know how your no-handoff project goes, lets improve this process together.