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.
  • 3 Visual Design Techniques That Drive User Journeys

    by Marc Icasiano | Apr 26, 2017

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    A big mistake that people make when creating websites is that they separate the visual design efforts from the UX (User Experience) and content development. They see visual design as putting paint on a finished piece of pottery—something you do at the end to make it look pretty. This approach is missing the power that visual design has to engage users with a website’s narrative.

    1. Use white space to control the focus

      White space is the visual space between objects and blocks of text. Websites used to try to cram everything onto the homepage “above the fold.” This antiquated approach forces users to do the work of finding your story—like a puzzle that they needed to put together themselves. Instead, we use progressive disclosure. This technique presents fewer choices at the beginning of the user journey and opens up to more varied options once the user provides input and proceeds down the path. White space plays a large part in doing this effectively.

      By increasing white space and reducing visual distractions, we force the viewer to focus on one thing at a time. We can then control the order and pacing of information, avoiding choices that disrupt the flow of our narrative. When the user decides that they want more in depth information, we start reducing white space, creating more information dense pages, and providing a wider range of interactive options.

    2. Use visual hierarchy to keep the user on their path

      Visual hierarchy is the art of controlling what a user looks at first, second, third, etc. When done well, the user will intuitively and effortlessly progress through the path we have set for them.

      Users will generally look at the largest objects first. That said, there are many other ways to give text or objects prominence. For example:

      • Warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellows) attract attention—they tend to “jump off” the page—whereas cool colors (blues and greens) tend to “stay back.”
      • It’s human nature to focus on what’s different. If most of a webpage is text, even a small photo will draw our attention. If most of a webpage is black and grey, the one thing that is blue will get our attention.
      • Images of people—especially of faces—always draws our eye.
      • Shapes or patterns that point, even subtly, move our eye in that direction.

        By using all of these techniques and others, in combination, we give the user a natural flow of how they should be absorbing the information on the page—leading them to a well-defined choice of digging deeper into the story or taking a specific action.

    3. Use “surprise and delight” to keep users engaged

      From a UX perspective, consistency is king. Web designers generally provide a unified, predictable experience so that users don’t become frustrated or confused. However, as any good storyteller will tell you, throwing a few twists here and there will help keep your audience engaged. If the story goes exactly as they expect, users start to lose interest. So, as designers, we search for opportunities to inject “surprise and delight” into our narrative. For example, can an interactive element make the experience more customized or give the user a sense of control over the content? Will an infographic explain an important point better than words alone? Will a case study or testimonial add human interest? Will a video or animation tell a more dynamic story? When a user knows that the next click might bring something fun or unexpected, it creates more urgency in taking the next step.      

    The most effective websites are built with considerations for who the audience is and how to lead them towards specific actions. By using smart visual design techniques, you can create websites that are both beautiful and hard working.

Insights posts by: Marc Icasiano

Marc Icasiano
A creative lead at Trellist, and a professional with more than 20 years of experience in graphic design and creative direction, Marc helps to define and communicate brand attributes and offerings for Trellist clients across multiple industries.