By Steve Megitt, director of Filament Creative
Remaking a digital experience is more than just revamping your style. Being trendy can make organizations feel ahead of the curve, but the challenge comes in knowing when trends stop being relevant. For this reason, a simple redesign only scratches the surface of what it means to create compelling, objective-oriented work.
Companies have to analyze how digital experiences can drive audience engagement when they’re meaningful and well-planned. Carefully looking at these aspects of the user experience when strategizing and creating it prevents a fundamental strategic misstep that can keep customers from relating to brands.
Surface-Level Thinking and Design Will Lead to Shallow Experiences
When approached to re-skin or update a brand website, digital agencies can feel like construction crews stuffing generic content into predetermined boxes. However, when their approach or process focuses on the user experience and human-centered design principles, they think more like city planners and bring greater value to clients.
Consider what’s necessary to accomplish objectives. This change in mindset lets ideas become thoughtful blueprints instead of just creative brainstorms.
People aren’t moved by looks alone. Beautiful work is important, but the real impact comes when you find yourself a part of an experience that matters to you, feels personalized, or, at the very least, lets you recognize your own pain points and address them. For this reason, design has to solve a problem. Layout, content, and style should all work in partnership to create something that goes beyond just visual appeal — it’s a design solution. Constantly reimagine your work, and all parties involved will reap the benefits.
This is exactly what we did when working with Fitbit to craft a new digital experience. Not all clients have their own internal design team, but it’s becoming more and more common. In this case, Fitbit’s internal team began by bringing its own ideas to the table. In response, we delved into the objectives behind those ideas. What outcomes were the team members determined to achieve? What audience goals did they feel they needed to accomplish to align with the brand and move users to action? From there, we could present a potential experience.
Both sides had ideas about how to achieve the stated goals. Because of the mutual trust and respect in the relationship, though, we were able to test those ideas to identify a clear story of why users were gravitating to certain parts of the experience. This led us to the best path of success for the product.
Sharing ideas and being open-minded throughout the process allowed us to anchor this digital experience in insights and understanding rather than just beauty and aesthetics. Discussing audience goals and objectives makes style less subject to personal opinion, too, preventing an endless back-and-forth that could hinder end results.
How to Reimagine Your Digital Experience
When you sit down with digital partners, there are three steps you can follow to keep your conversation focused on the true drivers of success:
Trust your partner to create for you and with you.
Generally speaking, due to the constraints of technologies, programming languages, and browsers of the time, digital agencies have been solving problems and overcoming obstacles since the start of the web. Because of this, they are worth trusting as innovators and partners.
Viewing these agencies as creative partners rather than just telling them what to do builds mutual trust, reduces your cognitive workload, and enables creativity. Ultimately, this leads to better outcomes because all parties involved feel ownership.
Bring in digital experts early, and share your desired outcomes for the present and the future. Leave behind the stuffy formality of just service provider — or worse, “vendor” — and client. Proactive partners will help you innovate and take the steps needed to evolve your business or brand.
With this approach, one-off projects can become long-term relationships in which each meeting builds on the last. Ultimately, you want to look good. Having a trusted partner who feels valued in what it can bring to the table is always going to enhance the chances of you — and your work — coming out shining.
Don’t sugarcoat your expertise.
Desires can’t come to fruition if you aren’t willing to be honest about gaps in your bandwidth. Each party must get vulnerable.
Clients sometimes come to the table promising a level of expertise that they might not have, which can create a gap in effective co-creation. To solve this, open up about areas in which you’re lacking — this could be an understanding of accessibility standards, content migration if you’re moving to a new content management system, or an understanding of web analytics — so the whole project can move forward with context. Everyone can contribute his or her skills in the weak spots and seek help where it’s needed.
Communicate what you need — often.
Be honest if there are specific tools you aren’t comfortable with or processes you don’t fully understand. Communication is key in the partnership between you and your digital agency.
For this reason, it’s crucial to check in regularly — weekly or fortnightly — with the expectation of total transparency. We often use a simple Google survey to ask, “How are we doing?” This gives us feedback and reroutes the project before it goes off course, if necessary.
Moving forward, follow these three steps to work with your creative partner and create a successful, engaging digital experience. Don’t stop there, though. Use the wealth of data and analytics this experience offers, and have a strong partner that can help you interpret this information to better engage your audience.
Collaborate with your digital partner to create work that invites your audience in and moves it to action. Let your experience do more than simply sit and look pretty — you’ll be glad you did.
About the Author
Steve Megitt is the director of Filament Creative, an award-winning digital agency he founded in 2001. Filament Creative works to craft amazing, human online experiences with purpose-driven organizations. Steve has a strong passion for technology and the user experience.