Standing out in today’s digital space means making a real connection with your audience, allowing them to fall in branded love with you.
But, in today’s competitive technology and marketing environment, you can’t merely “solve for ‘x'” when presented a problem.
Design that isn’t driving results now and into the future for your business and for your brand may NOT be hitting the mark.
Worse, it’s likely you don’t even know what you need. Creating meaningful results stems from design solutions that touch humans. And I don’t mean just skin deep.
Unfortunately, people and businesses don’t always understand the significance of the silent giant operating the most precious of their communications properties, their website.
Basics mean: easy to use
Hey, I get it. You thought you had it figured out when you dumped bucket loads of time and effort and resources into a meh result. Turns out, designing for results belongs on your agenda but, takes a thorough review going well beyond the basics.
For example, maybe you think design comes down to looks, and I don’t blame you. You want an aesthetic appeal, and that’s fine. But, that’s nothing in the bigger scheme of things when it comes to the critical aspects of significant design work.
It turns out “the look” is a shallow approach for designing a site. That is if you want your design to take you higher and light years further in growing brand love. And, more importantly, in fulfilling user experience nirvana.
It’s not your fault, I understand. Still, taking a closer look to resolve some of the things you thought you knew about design—and maybe don’t—won’t hurt.
In all honesty, a good “look” is the bare minimum expectation for seeking your optimal design approach. It’s only surface stuff. You need to think deeper. And at times, this doesn’t happen, primarily if you act like an old-school big clunky machine.
No easy task.
The design is THE differentiator silently making your coveted connections, acting as a business driver. And, this explains exactly why design is so excruciatingly crucial for your brand.
Only you may not have made the real discovery, not yet, anyway. Here’s why.
Getting to “y” means more than rooting around in the corporate-speak perception of your business.
The problem is your perceptions are deep-rooted, mind you, inside your mind. And skewed, I’m afraid, in how you see the company. From your insider, meaning slanted, viewpoint, you are tainted and sometimes glued to a false reality.
Have no fear; there’s a cure for that. But, it means traipsing over and seeking the hidden treasures in the collective mind of your main consumer or biggest market.
Who is your why?
And, it means solving for “y” becomes discovering the “why” (user intention, experience, brand perception) in your brand instead. External impressions are most important to your brand; I hate to say.
But, it means wandering outside of the corporate box—after collecting the meaningful information about your products and services, of course—and diving into unknown waters to imagine new capabilities or possibilities. It takes real market research and some time.
It’s a way (by working through an intensive design process) to move beyond current thinking or common expectations. Innovation. Going beyond what you do now. Make your effort matter at the maximum level for ongoing success, built in by design. Your brand design.
And this means design by committee, especially an ingrained-in-what-was committee, will fail in allowing data and creativity in an educated and appropriate mix to lead the way.
Design done well is the smooth running machine carrying and conveying your brand image, brand voice, and brand personality. But, the core driver is in how it increases the connections you make—touch points—to help grow raving brand fans.
Brand fans who are advocates for your business, digitally connected advocates that is, who enhance your business efforts and create organic marketing and p.r. that you often can’t buy at any price.
While badges of social proof can be gamed, humanity cannot. Nurturing true authority through authenticity, meaningful content, and an engaged group of followers will lead to a legitimate reputation and business benefits.~Mark Schaefer source/source
Form doesn’t trump function
Reaching your users in a way they want is paramount. Not taking a user-centric positioning in lieu of taking a company focused approach is a mistake some big companies make.
Worse, this curtails your ability to step in front of competitors by initiating user-focused design techniques, tools, and technologies beyond the pack.
Usable beats pretty. Results beat lovely looking. Progressive beats good for today.
Design has a much more productive function when you view the bigger picture and dig up real market data, all while maintaining agility and flexibility. So, if your design, or view of it, isn’t evolving at the pace of the high tech business environment of today, you may be lagging behind.
Basically, if your design team doesn’t embrace the perfect balance of tech and creativity and if you are designing only for today, you are missing opportunities for your business.
What you understand as design, may instead be a much narrower process like a production studio design shop delivers. But, I believe brand leaders, big brands, and international brands push to go deeper.
If you haven’t answered questions, been challenged or questioned further, maybe even felt uncomfortable in order to learn and grow; and, if your customers haven’t been deeply investigated to discover where your magic lies, perhaps you haven’t taken a more in-depth design plunge as yet.
A fine balance
To be results driven requires a balance of creativity and data-centric thinking intermingled with the perfect mix of technology.
This delicate balance only makes sense for your unique business needs and individual strategy.
Finding a results-driven balance involves crafting, honing, learning, and teaching as you build with your design team. You’re working towards the formula for taking your business into a new space for growth and repeatable results.
Creating your perfect website design and brand balance means developing a strategy based on the integrity of customer feedback, market and experience research.
But, it also stems from insights and benchmark solutions applying to digital media and website properties, in particular. So beyond what you know about you and further discover about your customer, you also need to know what works in the online space you want to occupy.
So, what do you do to let UX (user experience) and forward-thinking move your website and digital properties to the front of the pack?
I don’t believe, in the digital realm, there is any single or easy answer. But, you can start by recognizing and embracing some altered ways of thinking.
Alter your thinking I think
First, unlearn everything you know about yourself and your business. Although I can’t remember where this concept originates, the speed of change in business and technology at this time means unburdening yourself of being stuck on…. well…hmm…stuck…well, don’t be stuck on anything!
In case I’m not being clear, I’m saying, sometimes, starting from a clean palette is the trick for fresh and new ideas or directions to emerge. Obviously, a clean slate doesn’t mean you dump your core business or change business constructs that are working.
But, you may find your framework needs updating or repairs. A need for a shift in core direction may come to light. New information may change things.
Then, make your research an exhaustive discovery. Stepping into the marketplace and viewing yourself from a customer perspective starts with a deep dive into all available research. Start with your market and get to know and understand your audience(s) first. You need to know how others view your brand.
Then, evaluating competitors with SWOT and other analysis, conducting product comparisons, and auditing website, content, and messaging etc. helps even more. Data mine customer service for questions and concerns learned via customer interactions.
And, actually spending time with salespeople is often an eye-opening exercise. Review social conversations, evaluate surveys, collect most asked questions, and use whatever other means you can to dig deeper.
Next, shift your focus to customers. Solving their needs will solve yours as inbound marketing magnetizes people to your business.
Flatten your business model and open your arms to autonomy. Look, it turns out your brilliance grows by shining the spotlight on other bright folks. Their light shines back on you and if they’re not as good as you are, well, you still shine brightly.
The goodwill you gain by empowering others to do their best keeps everyone contributing, happily.
Have you been the same so long you’re afraid to be different?
Don’t be afraid to do it differently than everyone else. Benchmarking, industry standards, and jumping off a bridge because everyone else is doing it isn’t good enough. Going along with the status quo adds to engrained thinking and an unwillingness to change.
Let’s face it, stars aren’t made from status quo. Instead of fearing the unique, maybe the time is now to embrace it. I’m referring to a concept Larry Kim talks about but, goes back as far as “Purple Cow” thinking and attitude. Larry urges you use a Blue Ocean Strategy which argues for companies to create “blue oceans” by finding untapped market spaces, ripe for growth.
Capturing blue oceans leaves your competition in the dust and irrelevant.
Experimenting and testing are your friends. And the great part about producing on digital channels like your site is the constant changes you can and should make as your company’s publishing house division.
That’s right, your website is an interactive publishing house for your business.
Think media empire around your brand and core business. Right? Then ask yourself, “Am I changing, evolving, growing, and constantly improving user-experience by design, or am I stunting my own success?”
What’s your take? Let me know in the comments.