characterized or marked by resilience: as a : capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture b : tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

If you design in the real world, then you know that scope creep and scope cuts are as certain as soggy corn flakes. So what can you do to prevent these tectonic shifts or keep them from destroying all your hard work? Take steps to ensure that your design is resilient. Resilient designs are those that can suffer the slings and arrows that every project is subject to.

Tip #1 : Start with a story
When beginning a design project, it is important to know who you are designing for (you target user) and what they want to accomplish. Establishing a narrative will help you and your team share a common vision. A good narrative will not be prescriptive, but will instead focus on user success. In a recent article by Smashing Mag, Dorelle Rabinowitz explains:

Stories help bridge understanding, so storytelling can help teams get on the same page and speak the same language—leading to expected results. Stories can help people work more collaboratively and thus help teams get it done faster—faster time to market. Stories can help reframe business problems so that projects solve the right problems and come to a better solution.

Tip #2 : Embrace (and eliminate) ambiguity
Designers are often uncomfortable with ambiguity. After all, if the specifications are not complete, how can you start designing? It is important to remember that design thinking is needed throughout the product lifecycle, especially in its earliest phases. Design thinking can help the team frame problems in the context of user succes, not simply as a checklist of features. Good designers embrace ambiguity because it gives them a chance to explore and learn. The best way to uncover ambiguity in a project or design is to ask questions and enlist the help of the product team to find answers. Questions like: What if we didn’t…? What if we did…? What if instead…? and What happens when…? are helpful in clarifying ideas, identifying gaps and revealing unspoken assumptions.

Tip #3 – Test your hypotheses
Designers often don’t want to share their design with anyone until it is “done” or “done enough”. This is a mistake. Early in the design phase, you should be exploring and eliminating a lot of ideas. Often just the act of drawing something on paper will help you realize that an idea has promise or it doesn’t. Even if you think the designs aren’t great, show them to other people; your product team, other designers, random people off the street, anyone who isn’t you. Keep your design explorations lightweight (e.g. sketching) so that you can test multiple ideas quickly. This also keeps you from getting too invested in one design direction too early. During this process, be sure to document what you decided to throw out and why. It will help your stakeholders understand how you got to your recommended solution and keep you from unnecessarily re-visiting ideas that have already been dismissed.

Tip #4 – Anticipate roadblocks
Okay. You have generated a lot of ideas and thrown most of them out (don’t forget to document why you threw them out!). You are on a path that feels promising and you’ve validated your design ideas with others. Now that you have a better idea of where the design is headed, it’s time to anticipate roadblocks.

You may have the greatest design since sliced bread, but it needs to be technically feasible. Note that I said feasible, not just possible. As a designer, this can be the most frustrating part of any project, especially when you want to make a simple change to the UI and are being told that it will take 10 days to complete. Involving developers and QA in the design process early and often is key to understanding where they think the bulk of the work will be. It also helps to understand your medium. If you work in the Web, you should at minimum understand the basics of HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Armed with this understanding you will be able to make intelligent trade-offs or, better yet, re-frame your solution so that it avoids some expensive development work when it turns out the team has run out of time. The trade-offs you make may even improve the design. Don’t do this too early, however, or you risk designing to your technical constraints at the expense of your user.

Tip #5 – Don’t take it personally
If you’re new to design, this can be one of the hardest things to learn. No one likes to be told that their baby is ugly, but getting feedback early and often can help soften the blow and keep your ego in check. In the end, the feedback (or criticism) you receive should strengthen your final solution; either by pointing out problems or forcing you to articulate why your solution is the right one. Resilient designs come from resilient designers.