Strategy, Process

The Big 3

There is nothing worse then going blind into a design project.

Who is this for? What is my client looking to accomplish? What are my clients preferences? Does this look good? What would my CD think? What don't the like? Who are their users? The list goes on and on. 

Not to mention, fresh out of college I kept seeing amazing work being done but wasn't sure how to do it. Sure I knew how to use photoshop but I wanted a chrystal ball into these amazing designs I was seeing online. Did they just magically create these? Are they from a high powered high profile agency? 

When I would sit down to design something I would get incredibly anxious on every little decision. Would the client like it, what would other designers think, would like client like it etc. 

Talking with amazing designers, doing tons of research, looking at tons of awesome work and working on countless projects, I found a sure fire way to get results for my clients that help them achieve their goals while creating a design I was proud of. 

It is called a time machine.

Ok but for real, whenever I set out to design anything (app, site, platform, etc) I use the big 3 as my point of reference as I move through the project. Using the following 3 pillars has yielded me great success.

Pillar 1 - Business Goals

Business goals for a project are what the project is aimed at doing for my clients. Is it increase conversions, generate more leads, increase user retention, get more customers, more sales, etc.

Without business goals for a project, not only I am just shooting in the dark but this means tons of wasted time, more hours billed, frustrations and lack of results.

Having solid, clearly defined business goals, help me make the best decisions possible as I design. 

When I start on a project like to have 1 Primary goal (ex. Raise conversions by 5% or increase user retention by 20%). Then if the site or app needs a little more having secondary goals. 

ACTION STEP - On a 3x5 card draw a line to separate the card into a top and bottom half. On the top half write the Primary goal. Under the line write other secondary goals. If they don't fit they shouldn't be addressed.

Pillar 2 - The app/site/platform's Users

Not fully understanding your user's is like blindly buying a birthday gift for your wife. Just because it is wrapped in a box in AMAZING wrapping paper, doesn't mean that she wants a new ironing board. 

The second Pillar of creating a great design is understanding your users. This goes into details like:

  • Who are these users? (everyone knows age, gender, etc but what about apps they currently use, sites the frequent, books they read, technology they have at their disposal) 
  • What problem are they looking to solve? (need to find a quick flight to St. Louis, need to boost quarterly sales to X)
  • Where are they coming from? (google, an ad, a facebook post, a tweet, direct link)
  • When & how are they looking for this answer? (at work, in the morning, on their phone, at a desk, from co workers, family, on facebook, pinterest, etc)

Putting all of these details into a user persona helps me quickly get into the mind set of the user. As I work through the strategy, userflow or design, I can think where would I look for a call to action, how do I want the copy to be, what is a good font size for me to read, app XYZ has this gesture and I would expect a similar on here, etc.

ACTION STEP - Grab another 3x5 card and draw a quarter size circle up at the top of the card. Under that make a name for your target user (Mike Ott) and title CEO of XYZ business / mountain biking junky. After that answer the following questions:

  • Who are the users?
  • What problem are they looking to solve?
  • Where are they coming from?
  • When & how are they looking for the answer?

After you answer those questions - go back and put a face to the person. Seems stupid and pointless but it will help you better connect with your primary user.

Pillar 3 - Design Trends & Best Practices

The final pillar is what brings Pillar 1 and 2 together. The UI/UX (user interface - the design / user experience - the flow of the design) of the app or website looks and functions.

This final Pillar combines 2 critical elements:

  • Best UI/UX practices - intuitive user flows, consistent design, design theory, on brand with the business, behavioral strategy, etc
  • Current design trends - Design strategies that have been effectively used by large business or start ups that could be applied to this site or app 

ACTION STEP - This one is a little more nebulous but try to crystallize it for you:

There you have it, with those 3 Pillars you will be able to knock your new project out of the park!

Get out there and make some awesome!