When businesses consider how to implement digital transformation, they often focus on the improvement of back-end systems and how to reach customers across multiple channels. However, many successful, cost-effective digital transformation strategies also depend greatly on design.
Reducing misconceptions about design can aid in removing company silos, which is critical in aligning business, design and development teams for operational success.
What is design? According to usability expert Jared Spool, design is the rendering of intent. This can include aesthetic improvements, but doesn’t always and is definitely not limited to aesthetics alone. When utilized effectively, the positive effects of applying design principles to solving business problems can be seen far and wide. However, many companies may be unaware of how to maximize the value their designers can bring to the table.
A Customer-Centric Approach to Implementing Effective Digital Business Strategies
Why is it so important to focus on users when creating a design strategy? At the end of the day, it’s your users who most affect your business’ bottom line — prospects, customers, coworkers and many others. Figuring out who you are solving problems for is half the battle. Once you have that, you have real people who can help you evaluate whether or not your work is actually effective. All too often even designers can end up only paying lip service to customer- or user-centric design, so what are some ways businesses can actually execute this?
1. Get Designers Involved Early
The sooner designers can become embedded in your business strategy, the more effective your communication and planning can become because they will have a clearer understanding of not only the problem you’re trying to solve, but why that problem is a problem for your business, and by extension your customer.
One of my favorite misunderstood Steve Jobs quotes is: “Customers don't know what they want until we've shown them.” This could be interpreted as possibly some typical Jobsian arrogance. However, what it really means is that, generally, people’s ability to break down and get to the root of issues is limited. And to really understand problems, you must not only listen to what people are saying — you have to really examine and study their actual behavior. In doing so, a designer can then better understand the needs and issues affecting an audience and create an experience that both illuminates these issues and solves them for improved customer service through design.
This applies to design within business because all too often projects are brought to designers in a mostly finished state, meaning that a designer’s creativity and input is largely stifled due to the constraints of a project being almost complete. Project managers bring wireframes and ask designers to either “brand” it or “make it fit with the rest of the site.” Sometimes this works because you have an exceptional project manager who has a very deep understanding of the issue and how to solve it. However, those cases are the exception, not the rule. Most often, the improvements that could be made possible through a designer’s input are unable to be implemented, as doing so would likely cause delays and overhauls to affect the project.
Instead, when you’re first starting the project and reviewing problems and goals, include a designer in those meetings so that they can already start to develop a deep understanding of the whole problem so they can provide a more comprehensive solution.
2. Review Effectively
The better a company is at reviewing designs, the better they become at creating a great end product in the most efficient ways possible. Here are four guidelines that are helpful in the review process.
- Set Clear Goals - At the top of this list of goals should be measurable ways in which a company can improve the design. For example, does a screen in question help the user accomplish the task efficiently? Goals should not include “Make this screen appealing to my sense of aesthetics.” By tracking the customer journey and how it is affected by design, strategies can become much clearer and more effective in their implementation.
- Know Where You Are - Provide stage-appropriate feedback that makes the most of each aspect of the review process. For example, wireframe reviews should receive feedback regarding structure and flow, not color. Doing so prevents confusion and unnecessary complications.
- Present the Problem, Not the Solution - Improve the effectiveness of design strategies by improving not only the frequency and timing of their interdepartmental communications, but how these departments discuss the topic of design. Designers provide solutions, so a business should provide designers with problems for them to solve, rather than a strict, predetermined solution for them to implement without their own input.
- Provide Scenarios, Not Opinions - Instead of saying what you don't like, provide a useful scenario that a designer can address and solve through their creativity. This can help prevent subjectivity for better results that solve problems in ways others may not consider.
These principles will help your business make the most of the review process and improve your intercompany collaboration regarding design. By putting users at the focal point of the review process, it helps remove (potentially) egotistical subjectivity from the equation because you are now focusing on the needs of others instead of personal opinions.
3. Inform Designers with Data
Everything you are producing should be measured. If you don’t know how your current projects are performing, you cannot improve as needed. Tools such as Google Analytics, Liferay Forms and Hotjar can all provide insights concerning how users interact with your projects and websites online.
Frequently testing allows for continued growth and the ability to properly address problems. Providing in-depth data with tools such as Google Analytics and Hotjar can inform and help designers in new ways through concrete information. Data can’t always tell you the whole story, but it can give your designers greater context and help them make more informed decisions.
With these concrete insights, companies can see what areas are performing the best and what complications may be negatively impacting users. When used appropriately, data will help guide future decisions while still embracing the reality that people can be irrational and numbers can’t predict the future.
As mentioned earlier, examining people’s behavior is key to understanding the underlying problems in any site and using data intelligently will help streamline the solution process.
Putting It All Together
Introducing design early on in your business processes can help put customers at the center by providing a figure to focus on, evaluate for and measure. In turn, this more streamlined, efficient process will provide measurable value for your business.