Design Doc

A design document servers many purposes. A design document is something that should be completed at the start of any project. Let’s go through the purpose and benefits of a design document – and how to use one.

You can download a Design Doc Template here:

Purpose of The Design Doc

At the start, the main purpose of a design doc is to sort out design alternatives at the beginning of a project. The design document is to be shared among team members to solicit the collaboration of ideas. In a sense, the design doc is a challenge for anybody to see if they can come up with a better idea. Speak now, and raise concerns now or hold your peace, for now at least. So the purpose of a design document is to:

Purposes #1 – Provide A Place to collaboratively discuss of design alternatives.

Purpose # 2 – Flesh out design among many different people.

Purpose # 3 – Solicit collaboration of ideas from surrounding team members who may have something to propose. 

What Are Design Alternatives

A design alternative is any proposed method of achiving the goals of a project. 

For example, notable design alternative would  touch on one of the following.

  • Some way to complete a project in 20% less time
  • Will save a meaningful amount of money – upfront or over time
  • Adds value to your customers
  • Provides the same value to everyone but is easier to implement
  • You can prove your idea is better somehow

How To Write A Design Doc

The design doc template should have these sections:

  • A summary of what you are proposing. Tell what you are trying to do.
  • Motivation: Why are you doing this. What are you expecting? What are your hopes and dreams for this project?
  • Include Screenshots
  • Design alternatives: Allow others to collaborate on the doc. Be sure you edit the doc in a collaborative environment.
  • Pros and Cons of each design Alternative
  • Which designs alternatives seem to be the preferred choice
  • In addition: All other considerations, A/B Testing & Experiments, references to other documentation, How Others will access the new system.

Benefits of Using A Design Doc

  • Solidify a project
  • A way to reference your project
    • You can set up design documents as a website by setting up:
  • Help’s get a project off the ground faster
  • Summarize accomplishments faster. Serves as a narrative for how your work has impacted the project / performance.
  • Tell what you did, why you did it, what was the impact
  • Help build consensus, it is a place to add ideas, write out pros and cons –
    • public for all to see and add to. Serves as a place to see if ideas have been submitted before
  • Saves time. You can show what you did, why you did it. You can point people to the design doc. If a team member or your boss has questions, you can tell them to read the design doc first. If you have questions come talk to me. This saves you from having to explain the same things over and over.
  • It protects you. Keeps people on the same page. They know what is going on. They know what you are doing and they know what you are trying to accomplish. If you have no documentation of this, other members or your boss may not know how your effort fits with the group.

After Launch - Validated Learning

Once the project is done, go back to your design doc and write out how everything went at the top of the design doc. Write out:

  • What were the actual results for the launch. 
  • What iteration did we actually go with.

The design doc will serve as documentation for future project design. Later people can read this and see what actually happened and the results. 

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