We love designing. It’s true, we love spending hours in front of Photoshop, and nights coding to our heart’s content. But design to us isn’t just about making things look & work great, it’s about finding a way to solve problems.
As designers our job is to ask questions, to uncover the hidden issues that prevent companies and organisations from reaching their full potential. So when we meet with clients to discuss a new project, we’re not just looking for a list of requirements or features, what we’re really looking for are their challenges, their achilles heel. We want to know why things aren’t working, and what is preventing these organisations from utilising the power of being online.
Good designers want to know what the roadblocks to potential are, so we can reach ours, which is to design solutions. This is where we can do our best work.
How Design Solutions Helps Business
When we design something, we’re not just designing a new interface, a website or a brand identity, we’re designing a way to solve an existing problem. This problem could be old, new, or one that our client didn’t even know they had yet.
Regardless, here are some common problems that we wrestle with regularly:
1. Make a digital identity speak better to diverse audiences
Some of the biggest issues many organisations face is that their audience segmentation is diverse and their digital strategy or website only targets one segment at the expense of the others.
For example, many of our non profit clients only target their public consumers/customers, but also need to target funding bodies, key stakeholders and partners/sponsors for continual financial support and for the strategic growth of the company. With competing needs, the message for each of these audiences can become diluted and risk excluding some audiences who are vital to the sustainability of the company.
In these situations we carefully research and ask questions to uncover all the different goals for each of the different users and then match these to tangible outcomes for the digital strategy. To refine this, our process often involves mapping user personas and workflows to ensure that the new website design addresses the needs of all the users.
2. Resolving issues on an existing site so systems work properly
This is a huge priority for many of our clients, often their sites are outdated, or running old versions of software so the site’s performance is suboptimal which has a huge impact on usability and negatively effects brand perception amongst their users.
We very carefully identify what these performance issues are and look for strategies to resolve these. For example, one of our client’s had huge issues with their membership site’s load time which was impacting on conversion, so we ran diagnostics and provided recommendations around site software, hosting and coding best practice to vastly improve speed and performance which were implemented as part of a redesign process.
3. Moving common tasks online to minimise administration time for teams
We pay attention to how our clients are currently using their website, and look for gaps so they can utilise it better. With technology pushing ahead at lighting speed, we can often recommend new and easier ways for administration tasks to be automated.
Online systems and website integrations such as:
- website ecommerce & invoicing integration for Xero or Quickbooks
- automate the generation of email campaigns via RSS using Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor or AWeber
- website forms to CRM’s for lead tracking such as Zoho, Base CRM or Salesforce
- website forms to support ticketing systems such as Zendesk or Bugheard
- creating online forums so teams can communicate with their customers better
- setting up online resource repositories so customers can be directed to this, reducing admin time for staff
4. Find new types of revenue online to help diversify income streams
Some of our clients, particularly those who are from Not for Profit organisations, want to diversify their revenue so they can be less dependant on funding, or sponsors and have more self generated income. We work with them to find alternative ways to generate income from their website and find new revenue streams through:
- online stores selling educational resources or service packages
- content marketing
- automatic advertising systems to gain revenue through the website
- online donation systems for special programs
- membership systems that require subscriptions to gain access to certain areas of the site
Listening is Key to Ideating A Solution
Designing solutions takes time and the most important part of this process is listening….yes….good old fashioned listening. This is key, because sometimes our client won’t even know exactly what the problem is, they may feel it intuitively but not quite understand the root of it. So we have to listen, to read between the lines to get to the core of the issues.
Before we even pick up a drawing pen, write code or start designing mockups, we set aside time to meet and listen to our clients…. we listen to what is being said, the way it’s said (tones and non verbals) and also listen to what hasn’t been said. The space between. Here we often discover more of the story and really uncover some of the underlying issues that motivate our clients to make contact with us in the first place.
Often we pick up cues that the issues are not just about a broken website, but find that there has been broken trust between the organisation and their previous web designers, leaving them cynical about a positive outcome. Or that there has been a culture of fear around using digital technology in a company and opinions and policies are very polarised.
Therefore our solutions need to consider deeper business issues around staff cohesion, staff morale and education as well as address their target users needs.
Taking Time to Think Is Our Job
Design thinking requires space to think, to research and consider options. Many tech companies big and small, including LinkedIn and Facebook allow staff 20% of their time to explore and experiment. Spending time exploring helps the brain discover ideas that are less obvious during the noise and clutter of the everyday, and can lead to innovation.
This informs much of our internal philosophy. The first part of any of our projects is spent collecting information from our clients, their users/stakeholders, the industry and competitors to help us fully understand the breadth of the issues so we can design a solution that works best. Here we tinker, test and explore. We then distill this information into strategy which builds the substance and direction for the project, so we can address all the issues and design the best possible solution.