When designing a website or campaign it's important to spend a good deal of our time defining our user and their needs. We must also remember, however, that our clients need our care and attention too. They are, after all, the first group of people our campaign has to impress. Because of this, it is essential to determine what is valuable to the client; what is their grand prize? We can do this by first identifying their business goals, which means meeting our stakeholder and building relationships that will last throughout the project.
Stakeholders carry most of the responsibility and risk associated with a project. They are first to define the meaning of success. We should, therefore, start every project by first identifying the stakeholders. We also need to know what the impact on their world will be if a project succeeds or fails – will Carol lose her car? Will Bob have to move to the office in the basement? Through this process, we must also remember, that we are looking for measurable goals and achievable desired outcomes.
During our initial meetings with the stakeholders, when talking about the campaigns we’re building, we need to ask the client a series of questions.
- Who is in charge? In other words, who is responsible for the website’s identity and function?
- Who finances the website?
- Who markets and promotes the website?
- Who acts on data once it is shared, collected and reported on?
These questions will help identify the various stakeholders and pinpoint their responsibilities. It will also help to determine our roles as project owners, designers and developers.
Analysing the industry
Once we have identified the stakeholders and their business goals, it’s important for us to understand the industry. Are we analysing a medical centre or a McDonalds? Every industry comes with a host of topics, areas, and issues that need to be considered:
- What type of industry is it? What are the rules of the business model?
- What is the market and who are the competitors?
- Are there any changes or disruptive trends happening in the industry overall?
- What is the specific lingo or language used? This might help determine navigation items.
- What tone of voice does the client use, is it formal or informal? You don’t want to be calling a fortune-500 corporate big wig ‘bro’
- Does the specific brand offer business or service practices?
- What is the ratio of show-to-tell? Does this client use more content or images
- Are there other specific aspects to consider when we think of the customers?
What do designers need to
implement a strategic design?
As designers, we are inclined to focus primarily on visual aesthetic; we want to site to look great! Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, unless it interferes with conversion. In some instances, this drive can interfere with the overall brand strategy. This should never happen. To strategically implement a good design campaign, our thought process and approach needs to be adaptable. This involves analysing all aspects of the client’s brand, being part of strategic workshops, and developing comprehensive data surrounding a brand’s target market.
We also need to connect our users with this strategy. One of the best tools for this is a decision path. A decision path tells us how much information a user may need at any time to make a decision or take action. It also helps us decide how much information the user needs to see or hear before they interact, which helps us decide how the information should be organised within the campaign. Decision paths are made up of various journey points:
- The user perceives a need
- The user identifies the options available
- The user narrows choices and chooses one
Interactive design walks a fine line between ‘not enough information’ and ‘information overload’. When implementing great design, we must remember those decision paths have everything to do with progressive disclosure. This means that everything in the user interface should progress naturally from simple to complex. This ensures that we don’t overload people.
Users want to find things effectively and quickly. This process mimics the natural way in which the brain processes information. What this means for the design is that only the necessary or requested information is displayed at any given time.
When we follow these processes, we’re on our way to developing a beautiful and strategic design that functions effectively and speaks to the right people. Strategy might seem at odds with the creative processes designers love to use, but really the two work hand-in-hand to create something amazing. As designers, it’s our duty to make sure a project succeeds. The only way to achieve that is to familiarise ourselves with what the client truly wants.