Bikeshedding Is The Enemy Of Design!

Marc Brophy

UX Designer

Is it possible to deliver high quality Design in a tight timeframe? The phrase “Tempus Fugit” applies to designers as much as anyone else. A good designer can craft beautiful products that look awesome and satisfy User needs, as well as managing their time effectively. Here I am going to share some tips on managing your Design time effectively while avoiding the villain of good time management – bikeshedding.

Illustration of man throwing clock in the bin representing bikeshedding.

Bikeshedding

Bikeshedding is not something a lot of people have heard of but is something most can recognise. It is based on Parkinson’s law of triviality, and is a phrase we love at Graphic Mint. It means arguing about something trivial rather than focusing on the larger issue at hand. Bikeshedding can be a huge roadblock in time management and efficiency. As Design is very iterative and process oriented, it can easily be derailed when these things fall apart. An example of bikeshedding is debating over font choices when presenting early wireframes. Here the goal would be to get feedback on the concept and approach rather than the font choice. This decision comes much later at the final Visual Design stage.

Box Your Time

So how can bikeshedding be avoided? Timeboxing is a key time management skill. As the name suggests, it involves allocating fixed time boundaries around certain activities. Some tried and tested timeboxing techniques can be followed such as the “Pomodoro Technique”. It can be used on anything from meetings being time boxed to 30 minutes or paper prototype iterations being time boxed to 2 hours.

How to Time Box Effectively

So now that I’ve explained bikeshedding and timeboxing, it might sound easier said than done to time box. Well, here are some tips on how to time box more effectively:

  • Create standards on how to approach different types of design work – This way you know what steps to take whenever a new project comes your way.
  • Divide all work in large and small tasks to complete – A large task should contain several small tasks.
  • Prioritise what needs to be done first – Think if I can’t finish everything in the timeframe, what are the most important things that need to be addressed?
  • Time box tasks – Set aside time to focus on one task and nothing else. Doing multiple things at once can lead to mounting stress.
  • Effective communication – When presenting deliverables to stakeholders, organising presentations with agendas or presentation slides can help guide the review in the direction you want.
  • Managing feedback – This ties into the above point, make it very clear what you need feedback on when presenting deliverables to stakeholders.
  • Be realistic with timeboxing – If the scope of a project is increasing rapidly due to changing circumstances, there is only so much timeboxing can do. It might be beneficial to communicate this to stakeholders and divide work into additional sprints.

Design Your Time

Following the above steps will greatly help you steer Design projects. You will avoid timewasting on bikeshedding, pondering what approach to take and further procrastination. Practice makes perfect. Eventually time management skills will become inherent and you’ll be able to switch into automatic mode no matter what project is thrown your way. Of course these recommendations are only guidelines . Nobody knows your work process like you do. Feel free to adapt the above tips as needed to cater to the process you find works best. By following these suggestions, you’ll find yourself having more time to focus on what matters most, designing products.

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Want to know more about processes in design, check out our previous blog post: Designing UX Solutions in Pairs: The Benefits. You can also check out our blog Why User-Centred Design is Efficient for further tips on process and efficiency.

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