Not all deadlines are to be taken seriously

© Jon Tyson

It is not uncommon for the daunting deadlines of many projects to be the terror of any design team. Due to the pressure and accelerated transformation that the design discipline has had to follow in recent years, digital projects are one of the areas where the pressure of deadlines is even more evident. Everything is for yesterday, everything should have been launched in the previous month, the defined time-to-market is almost losing the opportunity and with that much of the company’s business.

This unrestrained pressure on the calendars affects projects transversally and makes the processes of thinking, designing and developing new digital products and services to be ultra-accelerated. Along the way, those who have this experience recurrently know that a lot is lost, but even so, one almost always ends up hearing expressions like “we didn’t have time for more” or even “you do what you can”.

Deadlines are not optional

It is important to clarify an idea at this point: the existence of deadlines is not optional and nothing can happen without clear and objective planning. Design, like many other disciplines of knowledge, cannot and should not live in a bubble where there is all the time in the world for everything. It doesn’t exist and, on the one hand, thank goodness. Design is a discipline of balances and among them is, of course, the balance of project calendar and deadlines.

The existence of deadlines, also in design, adds pragmatism to the process. It helps to face the challenge of defining priorities and evolving visions of digital products and services, instead of working in “one shot” logics that do not benefit the teams’ iterative work with people at all.

The calendar lie

However, despite the importance of defining deadlines, it is equally important to bear in mind another idea, which in terms of height also represents the lie behind the project schedules. Meeting deadlines, especially the most preposterous ones that are defined only “for themselves”, does not achieve the smallest and simplest business objective. None. If the only objective associated with meeting a project deadline is to say “it’s done” or “it’s launched”, then that’s the most useless deadline there is.

Especially in the digital industry, where competition in various sectors is very fierce, simply existing, without adding any additional value to people’s daily lives, is halfway to a huge waste of money, trying to meet, there are the so-called deadlines , so important and absolutely fundamental.

Let’s make tough decisions

Looking at this crossroads, the one that crosses the need to define deadlines for the project, but at the same time, not letting meeting these deadlines be an objective in itself, it is important to understand how to untie this knot.

First of all, it is important to be well aware that, especially in digital, the entire project is an evolutionary and iterative work. Not all business objectives have to be covered in the first version of the digital product or service, and it doesn’t do any harm.

Therefore, it is essential to know and not be afraid to set priorities. Setting priorities is clearly and objectively, leaving things out of each version of the product or service (fear, a lot of fear). Trying to set priorities and then saying “everything takes priority” is a redundant exercise, because if we’re not willing to leave anything out, what priorities are we going to set? Setting priorities still has an added challenge. It is important that these priorities are defined based on evidence and not simply using the “achometer”.

Finally, talking about difficult decisions, it is absolutely essential to have a very clear notion of what is the minimum value proposition that we can offer people and that justifies the existence of the digital product or service. Without this, even meeting all possible and imaginary deadlines, let’s not have the slightest doubt, our product or service runs the risk of being redundant, or worse, irrelevant to people.

And does all this justify not meeting certain deadlines? If we don’t add the least amount of value to people’s daily lives, why do we need to meet these deadlines?

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Ruben Ferreira Duarte

Ruben Ferreira Duarte


Hi. My name is Ruben Ferreira Duarte and I am a portuguese UX/UI Designer, currently living in Lisbon (Portugal).