Deadlines. Some designers find them motivating, others paralyzing. They polarize people and affect design projects, both positively and negatively. How can design teams that build products and websites harness the power of deadlines to their advantage?
First, it's important to understand why due dates cause friction. To a creative person, deadlines can seem stifling. Is the date reasonable enough to accomplish a set of vague goals that, thanks to the inherent nature of design, aren't always clear or well-defined? Sure, it may take only two seconds to choose a shade of green for a website but will it work with the three other existing calls to action already on the page? These kinds of decisions require a certain measure of time investment and a hard deadline puts added stress on what should be a fluid process.
Due dates also wreak havoc with a designer's ability to stay focused because they set off major negotiations in a creative person's right and left brain which both need to work together to visualize success. Deadlines add anxiety and including a set of undefined creative deliverables can amplify this uneasiness.
Make deadlines work for you
Since it's not practical to leave project timelines completely open-ended, it's important to find ways to make deadlines work to your advantage. One option we've discussed before is timeboxing, or planned procrastination
, and it's a terrific project management tool for design teams. Working backward toward a specific date simply means adjusting your deliverables along the way.
Not for the faint of heart, you might also consider shortening your deadlines. Though it seems counter-intuitive, here's why it can work. It used to take months, or even years, to build and launch an online product or service. Thanks to today's rapid prototyping and development frameworks, product development is essentially continuous. Shortening deadlines helps design teams iterate faster on specific pieces of a product rather than on the entire product as a whole.
Many designers struggle to keep a solid creative vision over time, but an experienced designer can use shorter deadlines as a competitive advantage for the business. They improve customer development and clients love them.
Everyone responds to deadlines differently and individuals on a team will go through waves of creativity and productivity— it's a fact of life woven into the DNA of creative people. Creating purposeful due dates help designers get into a productive flow so they can gain more control of these ups and downs. Deadlines aren't going away any time soon, so learn to embrace them and make them work for you.