Andy Rose, Group Creative Director: Digital
Hey, pssst. You do “web stuff?”
Us too. It’s getting sorta complicated, right?
In 2018, web design has grown to be so much more than sprinting at a few homepage concepts, which, just a few years ago, was still an easy point of entry. Truth is, if your brand is poorly represented online, you're going to suffer from the moment someone hits your homepage. Why? Put simply: crappy experience = crappy expectations.
Even if your company isn't the size of Nike or Amazon, consumers have been conditioned to expect that level of web presence. That's because the web offers something beautiful: parity. An equal opportunity for anyone who wants to represent their brand online.
What makes or breaks that opportunity is a strong focus (or lack thereof) on consumer expectations, content and experience. So here are three things we focus on in our UX/UI process that will radically improve your next project:
1. Affinity Analysis / Requirements Workshops
Before we roll up our sleeves to begin user flows, wireframes, or prototypes, we like to bring everyone together and get on the same page as far as goals for the project. What’s important to the user? What’s important to the business? What technical considerations (or debt) do we need to be aware of? What types of users or roles will be involved in the web property?
Trying to hash this out via email often yields incomplete information and also keeps us at arm’s length in understanding legacy pain points or miscommunications between client departments. Sitting at the table together to figure it all out also helps strengthen the bond between client and agency and helps everyone feel invested and accountable.
2. UX Strategy
Did I say it yet? Kinda/sorta, but just in case...
DON’T START WITH A FULL DESIGN; IT WILL END BADLY.
As with any web design in 2018, you should invest in an exhaustive research and discovery phase first. This means taking greater pains to understand and stay current with consumer expectations in the digital medium.
This is why we follow our Requirements/Affinity Analysis phase with a thoughtful UX strategy. How do we realize the goals and objectives we identified in that first step? How can the design approach influence the KPIs we’ve established? What sort of design psychology voodoo can we incorporate to maximize performance? (Kidding! Sort of.)
Striking a balance between lofty consumer expectations and business goals is a tightrope, often with limited or no safety net. Between the different browsing mediums, device types, and user behavior patterns, it's easy to fall short somehow, somewhere in a consumer's mind. A thorough UX strategy provides a roadmap for UI designs.
3. Empathy for Users
One of the most important changes you can make to radically transform the quality of your next web design project is to practice user empathy.
It can seem broad, but it’s crucial. We have a “Human-Centered” design philosophy at Partners + Napier, where we focus on the individual user, as opposed to treating everyone like a record in a database or presuming they all consume content in the same way.
Empathy is the ultimate form of customer insight.
— Don Peppers, Founder of CX Speakers and one of Accenture's "Top 50 Business Intellectuals"
When designing for web, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with client requests and their urging to cram every minute detail into a layout. That sounds good as far as making sure to use every last bit of copy/content they have available, but at what cost?
When we step back and review the work, it’s important to be both objective and subjective, in defense of the actual human who has to scroll through the site. How does it work for desktop users at home? What content falls away in a responsive mobile view? How about that notification when it displays on your smart-watch?
These are all considerations in defense of the user, their browsing habits, and ultimately, having a quality UX strategy underpinning the UI design work.
So yes, it’s tempting to ignore preparatory steps and sprint at what your new web design will look like. We get it. That said, rushing to design too early will cost you dearly down the line – from miscommunication woes to wasted time and budget, to the worst of the worst, having to go through it all over again a year from now.
So, roll up your sleeves and sit down to identify goals and KPIs, define a clear UX strategy, and always, always practice that user empathy. With these three easy optimizations to your web design process, you can align your approach to maximize results while producing a digital experience that beats expectations across the board.
We promise, if you do, you’ll end up with something that looks, feels, and functions pretty damn cool, too.