Building a customer-facing digital offering these days is about far more than just creating a snappy website- but whatever type of project your business is building, whether it's a website, app, social media platform or something entirely off the wall, the same basic principles of impactful digital design apply.
Know your audience
Understanding your audience is key to the success of any digital project. You can use this knowledge in order to provide the most useful information to your users. Knowing what devices your audience are likely to use is important too; smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers all have their own inherent capabilities and limitations, and therefore require different technological and design approaches. Once you know what your customer’s needs are you can tailor services to suit their goals.
Focus your message
You should try to align the messages you communicate with the expectations and goals of your audience in order to ensure they are relevant and useful. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Think about what they need to know, and what their preferred way of receiving information is. It is also important to be aware of where your service fits in the overall user journey. Does someone use your service to find out information before making an action somewhere else (e.g. looking for train times online, then purchasing a ticket from a kiosk at the station), or do they come to you having done some prior research elsewhere and are looking to complete their journey with you?
There are many different digital channels you can use to communicate with your audience, all with their own benefits, characteristics and expectations. For example a user would expect a more formal response from an email than on social media, and they would expect to have live conversations using instant messaging. Many organisations are using technology to handle customer service in an efficient and cost-effective way. Think about how digital technologies can help you anticipate customer needs, give them a better service and ultimately improve the efficiency of your business.
Don't forget the when and where of your customers
Depending on the service your organisation provides, your audience could be located anywhere on the planet. You may need to be aware of any differences in the time zone between you and your customers so that you are able to correspond with them at convenient times, as well as setting expectations of when you may not be available at set times of the year due to regional or cultural specific holidays.
Similarly the type of service that you offer will influence when the user is likely to use it. For example if your service provides up-to-the-minute information (e.g. train times) then your users will typically be mobile and want information quickly, whereas if you are an e-commerce retailer it may be a more considered purchase that requires multiple visits from different devices.
Choose suppliers and partner agencies with care
Finding someone to define or deliver your vision can be dependent on what you want from a supplier or partner. You may find it useful if an agency has experience in working with similar organisations as your own, either in the sector you operate or in terms of the culture and structure of how you like to work. Alternatively you may choose to work with someone who has experience in an area that has certain parallels to your own that you think would translate well.
Create a clear and detailed brief
At some point during the project it is likely you will need to brief agencies or suppliers with your requirements. There is no foolproof way of doing this but the more relevant detail you provide, the more accurate the response. As well as more obvious elements such as timescales and budget you should try to include the business case for the project and some metrics you will use to measure its success.
> See also: Why you need to move on mobile app testing
Give as much background information about what you know about your audiences, both internally and external to your organisation, including any research that has been conducted. Finally, be clear about how you will be judging the responses to the brief and indicate what elements are of most importance to you.
Write once, publish everywhere. You may have multiple digital channels all working together as part of an overall strategy so it makes sense to try to limit the amount of times you have to rewrite and re-purpose content manually. Keeping abreast of some of the more cutting edge developments in digital technology, wearables and the ongoing evolution of smartphones and tablets will help to make sure you are aware of and reacting to the habits and expectations of your audience.
Try to be realistic with what can be achieved within your budget. It helps if you have the kind of relationship with your agency or partners where they will assist in advising and managing your expectations about what can be achieved. You should be open minded about what the best way to achieve your objectives might be. For example, a client may decide they would like an iPhone app but after looking at what they are trying to achieve we may advise them to create a responsive website that is optimised for use on a smartphone or tablet.
Manage your time
Some clients are given the task of delivering a digital project to an employee alongside their everyday role within the organisation. Make sure you have enough time dedicated to the project, either yourself or with the help of others to ensure the project is given the attention it needs. It's rare that an agency can just 'get on with it' without regular input, reviews and feedback from the client.
> See also: Busting the myths of agile development
Remember good digital design is an ongoing revolution
Ensure that your digital project receives lots of ongoing care and attention. Try not to create it and then let it stagnate. An iterative approach to enhancing and keeping your site up to date will give it a longer shelf life and deliver a better experience for your audience.
Although we are no longer amazed at current advances such as the iPhone 6 or wearable technology such as Google Glass and we take things for granted such as the availability of online learning or virtual education; the digital revolution is far from over and there is a lot more to come. It is a world of non-stop change so if you want your business or organisation to thrive and grow it’s essential that you change with it.
Sourced from Robert Pinfold, managing director at digital design and development agency, Mickey & Mallory