I was asked to review a pending website, and in the process gave a company founder some suggestions on how to review what was being designed. It was clear that a creative brief had not been written nor followed. Some back tracking was in order.
Test: Take a quick look at a site’s opening page, close your eyes, and try to remember what you saw.
Can you quickly say what the site was about?
If yes, then it had a solid “read.” (The site in question didn’t.)
When we talk about the “READ” (of an ad, website, package) we are referring to the hierarchy of information; what is most important, what’s second, etc. In designing a piece of communication, we deliberately (using graphic design skills) facilitate the “read.” Maybe control is a better word than facilitate- but you get the drift. (Perhaps now you’ll understand why designers and creative directors tend to be control freaks. Our choices and directives have a huge impact on sales and conveying other kinds of information. And we want our projects to succeed for our clients.)
The user’s experience (UX) is related to the “read” in that via the hierarchy of information s/he has been guided to a call to action. Did s/he quickly find that call to action? If so, the visual design (at this point the UI–user interface) is successful.
Next, did the user/visitor act? Was s/he compelled to: sign up, make a purchase, register, buy, call for info, change a habit, etc., etc.?
Getting people to change–even a change from doing nothing to being compelled to make a purchase (sign up, etc.) takes energy. The chances of facilitating that change, — compelling that action — are greater if you know who the audience is and what they want/need/are motivated by. And, use that information to best advantage.
In looking over the proposed design(s) for that website, it was clear that the first step in the creative brief had not been addressed. The client’s idea of their audience was fuzzy at best. The trickle down effect was that the information wasn’t focussed on what the prospective client cared about most.
The principals hadn’t really dug in there and thrown the thing around, wrestled with it and made a decision. (Yes this can be stressful, they were avoiding it. It’s critical, and so worth hashing out– and they were oh so relieved once they’d done it.) As a result, the designers on the project were going around in circles (= wasting time and money).
In my role as creative director, I took an approach that helped them sort out the larger issues, by asking them questions and reviewing answers until we had agreement. This put us back on track.
I could then go through the information that was specific to their audience and determine ways to present it (prepare a design and slide show and layout for the designers to execute) that would showcase the company’s offerings in the best possible light, –highlighting the BENEFITS — not the features (more on that later)– their specific audience cared about in an interesting and compelling manner.
Result: cohesive, compelling website with clear message, and a clearly articulated call to action.