We’ve all been there. A client calls an agency partner and says, “We need UX concepts, right away.” As a strategist, design thinker, and consultant, I understand my clients, their needs, their timeline, and the pressure they’re under to deliver within their organization.
Although it’s easy to develop a proposal for delivering a range of concepts, often, this type of rushed design exercise lacks strategy or a clearly defined user need. How should the concepts differ? What is the problem we’re trying to solve? What insight is driving the design change? How are we connecting emotionally with our user? What is our point-of-difference? These, of course, are big questions that usually result in the response: “I just need some concepts.” Again, it’s easy to write a proposal for an exploration with a few rounds of development, but if you want to do this right, and do it once, you should focus your efforts on creating an experience, not a concept. Now, let’s look at what that means.
An effective design exploration should have a strategy rooted in actionable insights synthesized from user research. These are the unmet needs and opportunities to connect with your target user. You either have insights, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you should consider a phase of user research before you invest time and budget in design exploration. Doing so will give you a user-centered narrative that will inform and inspire designers to create meaningful experiences that solve problems, create value, and connect emotionally with users that drives loyalty and builds brands. This is your point-of-difference and competitive advantage. This is how you lead and disrupt your category.
Define user criteria.
Sometimes, early in the process, the strategy conversation might focus on convenience, simplicity, or intuitiveness. These attributes are not strategic insights or ways of differentiating concepts; this is user criteria. All digital experiences should be convenient, simple and intuitive. These are user requirements and table stake expectations to any service, product, or brand experience. We recommend defining user criteria from the research learnings and using them as design principles during ideation.
Design an experience.
Once you’ve identified an opportunity, explore and build an experience around it. Go beyond UX features and UI design (fonts, colors, icons, imagery) and consider the holistic brand experience. Explore naming, tone of voice, language, and all the brand touchpoints—email notifications, landing pages, social posts, marketing, etc. How are you creating awareness, encouraging trial, driving conversion, and extending the brand experience beyond the initial user journey? How are you creating buzz that keeps them coming back? Are you maximizing captured data to improve the user experience or sales narrative?
At Magnani, our narrative-based innovation process highlights our hero’s journey and brings to life unique, engaging, and relevant user experiences. Storytelling rooted in user insights is an effective way of creating or accelerating project momentum and gaining support of stakeholders to get commitment of time and resources (budget, team, space). Stakeholders who rally around a vision are more likely to ‘buy-in,’ support you and your project and see it through launch.
Roadmap your future.
Don’t stop innovating after you’ve identified a lead experience to develop, implement, and launch. Consider developing a roadmap of future generation features, products, and platform expansion that attracts new users and grows new markets. A disciplined team with a well thought out solution can unlock new value and transform your business as it evolves and protects your competitive advantage as you force competitors to invest and catch-up.
We understand every challenge is different; the timeline, the budget, the deliverable. However, every project, every solution, every experience, and every touchpoint should be designed and crafted around a meaningful user insight. Without a solid, actionable strategy, you may be wasting time and resources on misguided assumptions and outdated orthodoxies. Deep understanding of your user will unlock opportunities and motivate teams and stakeholders to develop elegant products and services that solve problems and create business value.