The importance of strategy in design - Part 2 of 3

Strategy in Design

As designers, we tend to be creative in all areas and we express ourselves in expansive ways for the world to see. Whether it be our big, bold tattoos, our hipster haircuts or our vocal obsession with Apple products; sometimes we feel misunderstood, especially by our clients. Meeting with our clients and users face-to-face can change that.

Taking part in strategic workshops helps us to work cohesively with our stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page at the start of a project. Building a website for users and stakeholders requires a certain amount of research, and although this research doesn’t need to be formal, it does need to be documented.

All projects at Amazee Labs, consist of four phases:

  1. The Definition – Why are we doing this?
  2. The Architecture – What content do we need for this website?
  3. The Design – What UI is appropriate for the client?
  4. The Development – Is this design a blog, a corporate website or perhaps an e-commerce platform?

Before we embark on a workshop with a client, we have to define a master plan. This means we first need to ask ourselves and our clients a few questions.

  • Why are we doing this?
    We can ask our client this question, for example, “Why do you want this new website? Why are we updating your look and feel? Why is this new functionality so important?” This a valuable question as it helps us to determine the final result the client is looking for.
  • Who are we doing it for?
    This question is also important as knowing our target audience is vital – the more information we have about them the better.
  • What value will it provide?
    Whatever we do must undoubtedly add value, and it’s up to us and the client to determine that value beforehand.
  • How will we measure success?
    This is one of the most important factors, but it’s something we can’t answer ourselves. The way to measure success can only be determined by working with the relevant stakeholders; no one knows a client better than the client themselves.
  • What is realistic?
    While we would love to change the world with an inexhaustible amount of money at our disposal, it’s unrealistic; we need to determine what is viable and what can truthfully be achieved.

Users and Strategy

After working through this with the client, we move on to our user and their design needs, also asking the question: “How will these needs affect both our and the client’s vision?”
 
We need to discover who the user is, what they expect from us and why these expectations matter to them.
 
During a website journey, we want the user to interact with a website and receive value from what we have created. This is done in a series of stages as the user arrives:

  • First, the user perceives value when visiting
  • The user begins to use the website, effectively receiving proof of value
  • If the cycle continues they begin to trust the website
  • Once trust occurs, the users join, share or purchase using the website
  • This action delivers ROI to the brand/site’s creator


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There is a big difference between the desires of designers and developers, and that of our users. Designers and developers may want to create a big, bold and beautiful website with cool features and amazing functionality. But users want a website that’s fast, relevant, and easy to use. This is why it’s important to first identify these user needs, which can only be done by asking the right questions.
 
First, we need to understand that there are two types of users:

  • Business to Business - this audience uses a website to conduct or support business activities.
    The user journey is focused on accomplishing a business-related task; it is, therefore, important to focus on questions surrounding this specific end-goal and process. For example: “How do you go about accomplishing this (business task) and how does this process compare to other organisations you’ve worked for?”
  • Business to Consumer - these are users who visit a website either to be entertained, informed about something or to purchase a product. The user journey is more entertainment focussed and should enhance this experience, making the information/product highly accessible. We could ask the user: “When using this website, what task do you find tedious and what would you put off doing for as long as possible? For example - filling out your details, submitting a credit card or signing in.”

When interviewing any of these two user types, remember to keep the questions simple and open-ended. We must also be patient and never lead the interviewee, remember to listen and let the question do the heavy lifting.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t. Remember, it’s about meeting your clients, asking your users the right questions, and understanding their needs. This will ultimately lead you to create a long-term and sustainable design. Meetings like these can be both fun and productive. Workshops help us to better understand our stakeholders, how they measure success and how we can all work together in a holistic way.

Read part three of this article series where we discuss the importance of building relationships with the stakeholders and what designers need in order to implement a strategic design.

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