Insights

  • Setting the Foundations: Why Discovery Matters

    by Kris Kuss & Marc Icasiano | Aug 03, 2017

    The case for a robust discovery process before beginning design/development projects.

    Imagine a house that’s beautiful from the outside but, once you cross the threshold, you find the floorplan is all wrong, the rooms are too small, and the windows are too high to reach.  

    It takes time and thought to develop the layout and “experience” of such an interior so that it meets the expectations and needs of the people who enter. No matter how spectacular the exterior is, if the internal experience doesn’t deliver, the whole thing is a failure. 

    It’s the same in our business. We’d be doing a disservice to our clients if we started design and development without defining the experience they want to provide. That’s why it’s important to undergo a robust discovery process that sets the stage for smarter design and development choices. 

    The objectives of this discovery process are to:

    • Understand the brand
    • Understand the business
    • Understand the audience

    Once we understand a client’s brand, business, and audience, everything from that point forward aligns with the client’s unique needs; there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

    The discovery process informs Business and User Requirements, the Customer Experience Strategy, and the Brand Platform. The benefit of this is that the different members of the team contributing to the final product remain aligned and grounded in consistent foundations. At each stage of the design and development process, we can refer back to these guidelines to ensure we are remaining true to what we set out to do.

    Understanding the brand, business and audience ensures that the project goals are fulfilled across all design aspects

    Having guidelines and constantly checking back with them produces a better end product. Clients directly benefit from this process of constant validation, since it ensures that:

    • Clients are making the most of their budgets and not paying for features they don’t need.
    • Everything in the final product has a purpose that fits their unique needs.
    • Goals and deliverables set at the beginning of the project are met at the end.
    • The final product fits into the client’s overall communications strategy; reinforcing a consistent customer experience across all channels.

    We have found that the last point is particularly valuable to our clients because the results of the discovery process can be used for reference in future endeavors. The customer experience strategy, in particular, can serve as a foundation for other cross-channel communications: email campaigns, landing pages, extranets, print pieces, and any other customer touchpoints.

    In addition to ensuring the success of a one-off engagement, the discovery process has far-reaching benefits that extend beyond any single initiative. It’s also an opportunity for clients to take a step back and see their business from the eyes of their customers. With this perspective, it is clear how the house’s floorplan should be laid out, how large the rooms should be, and how the windows should be placed.
  • 5 User Experience Myths

    by Kris Kuss | Jun 14, 2011

    Recently we submitted a webpage mockup to a client who responded, “will all my content fit above the fold?”  No, we said, and that’s okay.  Here’s why it’s okay to flout that rule, and 4 other user experience mis-guidelines.  

     

    1.  Everything has to be above the fold, because users don’t scroll

    While users will look first at the top of the page for whatever they seek, they will scroll further down the page IF what they’re seeing looks promising and IF the page doesn’t appear to end before the fold (which itself is difficult to pin down given the variety of devices, screen sizes and resolutions in use now).  So when designing a page we use bordered content panels and sections that run past 700px on the page so that it doesn’t look like it ends there. 

     

    2.  Desktop and mobile are two different sites

    Desktop and mobile are two different experiences, but they needn’t necessarily be two different sites.  Certainly trying to display the full-screen desktop site on a mobile device is a less-than-ideal experience, but fluid grids, scalable images, and CSS3 media queries allow browsers to format pages on the fly and offer a layout optimized for the device displaying them.  Go to Hicksdesign and play with the size of your browser window to  see an example of this in action.

     

    3.  Your homepage is the user’s starting point

    We used to have to accommodate all user groups and pathing off the homepage, treating subpages as mere delivery vehicles once the user made a choice on the homepage. Then Google arrived on the scene.  Now, users are much more likely to arrive at a subpage of your site via a search results page, and view your homepage as a gussied up About Us.  So your subpages should support user pathing and orientation just as much as your homepage, if not more. 

     

    4. Typefaces should be Arial or Verdana

    Are Arial and Verdana the most readable fonts on the web?  Yes.  Does that mean they’re the best for the user?  Maybe not, if you’re trying to teach them something.  Studies (recent whitepaper here, in pdf format)  have found users presented with material in a “friendly” font retain less than users reading material in Monotype Corsiva and Comic Sans Italicized.  These findings corroborate other research suggesting that when learning material is challenging, ultimately people understand it more thoroughly.

    5.  Choices should be limited to 7 items, plus or minus 2

    George Miller’s theory that short-term memory is limited to 5-9 items, while sound in some cases, doesn’t apply to user experience on the web.  By their nature, webpages offer persistently available navigation, meaning that users don’t have to memorize choices and can therefore handle a larger number of them.  In fact, a broad and shallow site organization requires less short term memory than a narrow and deep drilldown.  See any Craig’s List and McMaster-Carr for examples of effective pages that blow the 7+/-2 rule off the charts.  Some friendly advice though:  if you’re taking the McMaster route it’s probably best to stick to Arial and Verdana.    

     

    So when clients ask us whether rule X, Y or Z applies, we explain “it depends.”  It depends on the unique confluence between business requirements and user requirements, which is why Trellist amasses a thorough understanding of our clients’ challenges before beginning to construct solutions. 

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