Ben Reed

Aligning Creative Prowess with Digital Function

By Ben Reed on March 2, 2015

Users are becoming far more focused on their interactions within digital environments – or the digital experience – than anything else.

That’s one of the notions Cheryl Metzger, from OgilvyOne Chicago, presents in her recent write-up, 5 Reasons UX will be King.

Modern web design demands a certain level of coordination that was not necessarily called for ten years ago. The proliferation of mobile devices has changed the extent to which designers and developers must collaborate. Accounting for various devices and platforms has led to responsive design and the development of design languages — or systems — that can flow and adjust based on how the user is consuming the content. We’re also finding the design work behind a digital project is being judged less on creative finesse and more on the utility it provides to the user.

Whether it’s the headlines on the page, the banner, logo or any other visual element – everything needs to be treated as though it serves a functional purpose. It is no longer enough that a website be beautiful. Providing meaningful, trackable and testable functionality is the best way to gauge use and to ensure we are providing something useful to visitors.

After all, websites are advanced tools – not brochures. We shouldn’t write them off as being “finished” once they are launched. The most effective sites are evaluated to determine what is working and what isn’t, and ongoing changes are made based on those findings.

So when it comes to working through the “look and feel” of your brand’s web presence, you need to constantly ask yourself:

“How is my design facilitating an experience that provides solutions to the user?”

To ensure these solutions come to life the way they were intended to, focus on the three “Cs.”

Be Clear
If you want your audience to vouch for your website, you need them to stick around … but they won’t stick around if they don’t understand your purpose. All too often, companies fail to explain their purpose in a clear, understandable manner. You need to be crystal clear about what your audience can actually do on your website.

Engaging copy helps guide the user to perform the task they’ve set out to do. It eliminates distrust or confusion that will make people second-guess their ability to get the content that they need or they will go somewhere else. Avoid hiding important information and be clear about the page/app/action’s intent.

But there’s another element of being “clear” that is important here, and it rests in your management of the entire project. Digital projects, like site design, bring additional experts to the table. Having an agreed-upon document management process not only helps with the development of the project and adhering to deadlines, but also when it comes time for reviews and approvals.

Be Concise
Less is more. In fact, keeping that phrase in your head during the entire digital process is a good idea. There’s no reason to jam-pack your web designs with stacks of copy and visuals. By doing that, you’re giving a message that says, “We’re not exactly sure what we’re trying to say.”
Clear calls to action with supportive copy helps users feel confident they can complete the task they’ve set out to do – whether it be to read reviews on a product, download a manual or look up contact information. With the average user spending only a few seconds (if not less) deciding if they can complete their task or move on, we have to give them the best possible chance of success by removing excess noise in the design.

Be Consistent
One of the things developers look for when they’re working with your designs is consistency. You wouldn’t believe how much this makes our jobs easier.
Making sure the different page templates on a website have a cohesive look and feel makes the entire site more appealing to the end user. The best way to accomplish this is through simplicity. Choose your color scheme and fonts (remember, less is more!) and apply them throughout your web design. Keep your buttons and menus similar in terms of order, function, spacing, size and color. This not only makes it easier to drive your design through the development stage, but once it hits your audience, they’ll spend less time trying to “figure out” your website and find information, and more time on using and enjoying it. You want your user to have a seamless (and sometimes customized) experience whether viewing on their phone, tablet or desktop.

Some Food For Thought
As you work through the design phase, keep user needs in mind and think about how much utility any particular feature brings. This will help support the emotional connection a user has with your brand. To help maintain that utility, design in a clear, concise and consistent manner that creates a strong familiarity and expectation of function from page to page and interaction to interaction. Your audience will thank you for it.


Ben Reed is a Senior Web Developer at Core. 

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