A guide for digital folk to create user-centric digital experiences and get those designs over the line.
I've always been told that the first question to ask when a digital platform is to be designed - be it a Desktop Site, and App, or even an Email - is: WHY?
Why do you need this as a Native App? Would it work better as a Web App? Would it be a better landing page than an Email?
Finding answers to questions such as those is the best way to get inside your customers' heads. They are the most important people in business; not the CEO who doesn't like the colour green, or the green Marketing Co-ordinator who has done a quick sketch like something he or she saw on Siteinspire.
The user is always #1!
To maximise the return-on-investment (ROI) from a digital environment, you first need to look at who you are targeting, not just what they want. It is easy for a marketing team to subjectively destroy a website, change colours, and add more of that 'WOW factor' that they are always going on about. Of course, this is a fundamental flaw when it comes to creating rich and efficient environments.
Develop User Personas
At the concept phase, even before sitemaps and wireframes, create 'personas' of customers. There may only be one, there may be seven or eight. No matter how many personas you can identify, when they are agreed upon, and the requirements for each becomes clearer, you have arrived at the perfect 'kick-off' point for the best solution.
When you work with your clients to develop well-defined personas, you cut down on the backflow of trivial feedback because you can align your design to the personas. Simply having personas to cite will help stave off minor revisions that can slow the project down.
Once you have identified personas you can start to consider the information architecture (IA) of the site, beginning with the sitemap. It's massively important to have a sitemap signed off before so much as starting the wireframing phase. Doing so will allow you to accurately assess how many ‘individual template pages' are required for the environments. This will allow for more accurate structures as well as design build time.
While the marketing team is still reading eBooks and trying to 'get creative,' you’re moving on to the wireframing phase, which is the most crucial phase for any great design. The environments need to be the bee's knees. Without a good foundation, they will just be pretty designs with bad functionality and poor conversion rates.
Sketches are the perfect way to start the wireframing process. If you're unsure of what to do, or would like some client input to help you decide, sketching can help you pull together a cohesive design that will sell.
Your sketches eventually become wireframes and eventually prototypes (using products like Axure). That definitely fits into the approval process, allowing you to fall back on approved ideas, and charge more for additional changes at design or build phase.
Once the IA phase is complete, it's time to host a design workshop. That's when it all comes down to creating awesome designs. That's the easy part especially with the previous steps taken into account. And, for designers, that's where the fun starts.
Set expectations and deliver results!
From the homepage to all the other template pages, you can start early, sharing with the client and seeking approval to roll the project out. This route will minimise trivial feedback and, if you have meaningfully collaborated with the clients, they begin to feel their input has been considered with IA, and will trust you to deliver their brand to the digital realm, and win sales in the process.
Take that, marketing department!
(Editor’s Note: We’re having some fun at the expense of the marketing team, but we’re just kidding around. We think you're awesome and we love you the best!)
Designers, what's your secret to getting customers through the initial creative stages? What are the challenges you face?