Monthly Archives: November 2016

Design Also About Solving Business Problems

We love designing. It’s true, we love spending hours in front of Photoshop, and nights coding to our heart’s content. But design to us isn’t just about making things look & work great, it’s about finding a way to solve problems.

As designers our job is to ask questions, to uncover the hidden issues that prevent companies and organisations from reaching their full potential. So when we meet with clients to discuss a new project, we’re not just looking for a list of requirements or features, what we’re really looking for are their challenges, their achilles heel. We want to know why things aren’t working, and what is preventing these organisations from utilising the power of being online.

Good designers want to know what the roadblocks to potential are, so we can reach ours, which is to design solutions. This is where we can do our best work.

HOW DESIGN SOLUTIONS HELPS BUSINESS
When we design something, we’re not just designing a new interface, a website or a brand identity, we’re designing a way to solve an existing problem. This problem could be old, new, or one that our client didn’t even know they had yet.

Regardless, here are some common problems that we wrestle with regularly:

1. Make a digital identity speak better to diverse audiences

Some of the biggest issues many organisations face is that their audience segmentation is diverse and their digital strategy or website only targets one segment at the expense of the others.

For example, many of our non profit clients only target their public consumers/customers, but also need to target funding bodies, key stakeholders and partners/sponsors for continual financial support and for the strategic growth of the company. With competing needs, the message for each of these audiences can become diluted and risk excluding some audiences who are vital to the sustainability of the company.

In these situations we carefully research and ask questions to uncover all the different goals for each of the different users and then match these to tangible outcomes for the digital strategy. To refine this, our process often involves mapping user personas and workflows to ensure that the new website design addresses the needs of all the users.

2. Resolving issues on an existing site so systems work properly

This is a huge priority for many of our clients, often their sites are outdated, or running old versions of software so the site’s performance is suboptimal which has a huge impact on usability and negatively effects brand perception amongst their users.

We very carefully identify what these performance issues are and look for strategies to resolve these. For example, one of our client’s had huge issues with their membership site’s load time which was impacting on conversion, so we ran diagnostics and provided recommendations around site software, hosting and coding best practice to vastly improve speed and performance which were implemented as part of a redesign process.

3. Moving common tasks online to minimise administration time for teams

We pay attention to how our clients are currently using their website, and look for gaps so they can utilise it better. With technology pushing ahead at lighting speed, we can often recommend new and easier ways for administration tasks to be automated.

Online systems and website integrations such as:

website ecommerce & invoicing integration for Xero or Quickbooks
automate the generation of email campaigns via RSS using Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor or AWeber
website forms to CRM’s for lead tracking such as Zoho, Base CRM or Salesforce
website forms to support ticketing systems such as Zendesk or Bugheard
creating online forums so teams can communicate with their customers better
setting up online resource repositories so customers can be directed to this, reducing admin time for staff

4. Find new types of revenue online to help diversify income streams

Some of our clients, particularly those who are from Not for Profit organisations, want to diversify their revenue so they can be less dependant on funding, or sponsors and have more self generated income. We work with them to find alternative ways to generate income from their website and find new revenue streams through:

online stores selling educational resources or service packages
content marketing
automatic advertising systems to gain revenue through the website
online donation systems for special programs
membership systems that require subscriptions to gain access to certain areas of the site

LISTENING IS KEY TO IDEATING A SOLUTION
Designing solutions takes time and the most important part of this process is listening….yes….good old fashioned listening. This is key, because sometimes our client won’t even know exactly what the problem is, they may feel it intuitively but not quite understand the root of it. So we have to listen, to read between the lines to get to the core of the issues.

Before we even pick up a drawing pen, write code or start designing mockups, we set aside time to meet and listen to our clients…. we listen to what is being said, the way it’s said (tones and non verbals) and also listen to what hasn’t been said. The space between. Here we often discover more of the story and really uncover some of the underlying issues that motivate our clients to make contact with us in the first place.

Often we pick up cues that the issues are not just about a broken website, but find that there has been broken trust between the organisation and their previous web designers, leaving them cynical about a positive outcome. Or that there has been a culture of fear around using digital technology in a company and opinions and policies are very polarised.

Therefore our solutions need to consider deeper business issues around staff cohesion, staff morale and education as well as address their target users needs.

TAKING TIME TO THINK IS OUR JOB
Design thinking requires space to think, to research and consider options. Many tech companies big and small, including LinkedIn and Facebook allow staff 20% of their time to explore and experiment. Spending time exploring helps the brain discover ideas that are less obvious during the noise and clutter of the everyday, and can lead to innovation.

This informs much of our internal philosophy. The first part of any of our projects is spent collecting information from our clients, their users/stakeholders, the industry and competitors to help us fully understand the breadth of the issues so we can design a solution that works best. Here we tinker, test and explore. We then distill this information into strategy which builds the substance and direction for the project, so we can address all the issues and design the best possible solution.

Know More About User Experience

User Experience Design (UXD or UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.

So what exactly leads us to a successful user experience? And why is it so important for your website? Let’s explore the critical components.

User Experience Design

1. VISUAL DESIGN
The visuals not only represent your brand, or the look and feel of your online space, they are extremely important when it comes to determining the user experience of your website. Beyond visuals, such as colours, visuals and logos, there’s a deeper element which involves effective visual communication. Your graphic treatment must help you drive business, and must of course, encourage ease of use, and clicking in all the right places. A User Experience Designer has the edge on a Graphic Designer in this department. Although they may be somewhat similar, there are some definitive differences in skill-set. Engaging with a User Experience Designer will give you the confidence that your designer really understands the needs of your users, your business and also the technology that is being used for your site (or app).

2. INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE
The layout of your content is key to a smooth user experience. Create a flow for which you would ideally like your visitors to take, by mapping out a journey for them. Links, find-ability and usability of your site all come into play here. Don’t confuse people or take them to random places, maintain consistency throughout your site map and focus on the features and information which are important to your user.

3. CONTENT STRATEGY & STRUCTURE
Not the same as architecture, structure focuses on the all important clarity of your messaging. Make sure your content is clear from the get go i.e. what you do, what you are offering, and how people can access your service, or purchase your product. Adapt to your market with the right tone, and research, research, research! Be mindful of what works for you when you visit a site. You will notice the difference between a site with structure, to one that fights with its own messaging. Read our post about writing good content for your website.

4. SEARCH-ABILITY & FUNCTIONALITY
It’s not exactly shocking, but impatient users do exist, and if you don’t have what they are looking for easily either on your homepage or in your navigation, make sure you have an easy to find search option. This means you need to do the background work to ensure that all of your items are infact searchable, but it will be worth it to engage those quick clickers! Functionality is key – if your site isn’t functioning optimally, you’re likely to lose clients and sales.

5. CUSTOMER JOURNEY MAPPING & INTERACTION
Mapping your customer’s journey – this process really allows you to explore the design interactivity, as opposed to a graphic specialist who will be looking at the look and feel. Interactivity should be assessed for usability of the design, and will allow you to pin point any road blocks or issues that a user may face on your site – like the nasty ones that may steer them away. This also helps you design your website for optimum conversion. By implementing smooth transitions and a clearly directed flow from page to page, design blueprints (created by your UX designer) will help you understand exactly how your users are using your website – and how to improve the experience further.

Want to know more about Customer Journey Mapping? Smashing magazine do a great job of summarising it here.

WHAT ABOUT SEO & UX?
Remember our recent blog on SEO? We touched on “chasing the algorithm” pitfalls and writing for your clients and not Google. This stands strong when it comes to the UX, as we know Google measures your site quality. Another hot tip, is that Google can understand page layout, and may penalise you for pages with very light content. Most recently, Google has been looking into user engagement data, and on page content analysis.

Should Know About 5 Psychology Rules

Experience-based design…if that’s how you define your work as a designer, it might be a good time to reevaluate your approach.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being an experienced designer; your experience could be an asset! However, it is essential to realize that there are many moving parts in a working design. For example, do you know that you shouldn’t just drastically redesign a website? Or that the color that works on the exact same website (featuring the same thing and in the same niche) will differ if the audience was predominantly male compared to if the audience was predominantly female?
There’s a psychological approach to web design—based on decades of studies and psychology experiments. Below are five psychology-backed UX tips for your next redesign:

1) WEBER’S LAW OF JUST NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE
Anyone who’s used Facebook over the last 5 years knows that not much has changed in that time. Facebook is a mega corporation worth over $350 billion, so you might expect a lot to have changed in three years. Why is Facebook retaining every key element of its design? The answer to this same question explains why every major website—including Google, Twitter and Amazon, despite their large budgets—do not make drastic redesigns.

It is explained by Weber’s law of just noticeable difference, which states that the slightest change in things won’t result in a noticeable difference; if you’re looking at a bulb, for example, and the light dims or brightens just a bit, you’re unlikely to notice the change—if it brightens significantly, however, you will notice the change. In the same way, if you’re carrying a weight of 100kg, removing 1kg from it is unlikely to make much of a difference in the weight, you’re unlikely to notice it. If you were to remove 10kg from the 100kg weight, however, the difference in weight becomes instantly apparent.
Research shows that we dislike a massive change in existing structures and systems, even if those changes will benefit us, and there is ample evidence that show protests when major websites make massive changes and redesign.

Simply put, Weber’s law coupled with our natural averseness to change shows that the best way to approach a redesign is subtly; make your redesign slow and subtle, changing a little here and there gradually—in such a way that most people won’t even know you’re doing a redesign—until you’ve completely revamped the redesign. Not only will this ensure your design is well accepted by the majority, but a good portion of your audience would have gotten used to your redesign before it is completed and very few will complain.

2) UNDERSTAND THAT WE RESPOND TO COLOR DIFFERENTLY
While we often deeply trust our instinct and experience, it is another thing for them to stand science’s test. For example, do you know that the same design that works for an audience of male readers often won’t work for an audience of female readers—even if it’s for the same website selling the very same products?

One of the most important factors you should consider when redesigning a website is the audience. Are the audience predominantly male or female? This matters a great deal!
Research has found that people will form an opinion about things within 90 seconds, and that color influences up to 90 percent of the opinion people form. The color you use for your design alone can make it a failure or success.
That said, it is important to realize that men and women see colors differently. The graphics below show the colors both men and women like as well as the colors they dislike the most:

COLORS THEY LIKE
5-17-fav-colors
COLORS THEY DISLIKE
5-17-least-fav-colors
Image Credit: HelpScout
When doing your next redesign, consider the audience of the website that will be using the design. Are they primarily male or female? Let their gender influence the color you use.

3) THE SENSORY ADAPTATION PHENOMENON
Have you ever wondered about why you don’t feel your clothes or shoes? Ever wondered about why, even though you were initially irritated by it, you no longer notice your neighbor’s dog’s constant barking?

This is explained by a psychological phenomenon called “sensory adaptation.” It states that we tend to tune out stimulus if we get repeatedly exposed to it—initially, we find it annoying, but later we just don’t notice it.
Now, how does this relate to web design? It’s simple: you design a website and use the very same color scheme and button color for important parts that you want the user to take action on. Due to the fact that these essential parts blend in with the design color scheme, and that people have been seeing the same color all over your design, people are naturally wired to tune them out—they don’t see the key elements on your page, and you lose out on conversions.

When designing or redesigning a website, it is essential to make your CTAs stand out; if the whole design color scheme is blue, you must not use the color blue for the CTA or to highlight the most important action on the page. Most people believe the color red or orange is the most effective for boosting conversions; it isn’t. A color red button used on a page with red color scheme will convert awfully, but a color green button on the same page will convert much better.

Use something that stands out for essential elements; this way, it doesn’t activate people’s sensory adaptation, and your conversion doesn’t suffer.

4) TYPE: BIGGER IS BETTER!
When it comes to text, designers often obsess over look and appeal: “Wow, should I use a serif?” “That new font looks dope! Let me give it a shot!” Except that psychology shows that, when it comes to design, most of the things we designers give importance to are not what the end users really care about. Why we care about aesthetics and how appealing the latest typeface will make our design appear, the average user cares about basic things like usability.
In essence, the average user cares a lot more about font size than about font type. In fact, research has shown that people want type to be bigger and simpler, and that larger type elicits a strong emotional connection in readers.

In essence, people want simple, large type. Based on data from available research, experts advise not using a font-size lesser than 16px.

5) PERCEPTUAL SET

What you see will differ depending on your experiences; as with the image of the “vase or two faces,” if you’re an artist, especially if you just finished working on a vase, you’re likely to see a vase in the image. If you just left a gathering of lots of people, and if you’ve not seen a vase in months, you’re likely to see two faces.
This phenomenon is explained by the “perceptual set theory,” which explains our tendency to perceive information based on our expectations, existing information and experiences. In essence, people from different cultures are likely to perceive the very same thing differently.

The implication for web designers is that people have certain expectations of web design—some general and some based on certain industries. For example, most people have a certain expectation for where a site’s navigation bar will be (in the header), putting it elsewhere (in the footer, for example) will confuse a lot of users and lead to bad user experience. The same goes for every element of your site design.

It’s good to be innovative. When you’re going to be innovative, however, make sure you include clues to guide people about the new elements. Most importantly, test people’s response to the new elements and readily change anything people do not respond well to.