Look > Feel
Here at PILLAR3, we are trained in business. Accounting is typically at the core of what we do. However, its not all that we do. We often pursue opportunities that span outside the traditional accounting and finance categories into the strategic, innovative, and creative domains. These outlying services and projects involve forward planning and visual thinking, wrapped around a business function as the central purpose. So we may not technically be designers, even though sometimes we design things. And we may not be programmers or developers- though we often source, structure, assemble, and create.
So beyond the dollars and cents, we are also students of how things look and feel. We are intrigued by the successes, big and small, that result from the perfect blend of what is visually appealing and practically functionally (for what looks great doesn’t always work, and what works well does not always catch an eye). In our website projects, this blend feeds customer acquisition…and in our software business and implementations it leads to user retention and performance gains.
The topic of UI/UX is a fascinating one, as it combines the visual with the experiential. One of the resources we follow to glean insight and inspiration in the UI/UX world is the MailChimp UX Newsletter. Naturally, when they opened the books on their own internal processes, we were tuned in. You can read their full story for the expert version, but the cliff notes are below…and a very good summary of all that goes into taking an idea from its infancy thru design and planning to a functional deliverable. Though this is all aimed at software design and development, we feel that the theories and thought patterns also apply to marketing, customer service, product development, and business modeling.
- Talking and Brainstorming: Start with ideas…lots of them…narrow down and then narrow down again. Find the right balance between comprehensive and simplistic. Think about how your ideas will fit together, and throw the ones that don’t fit with the others out the window.
- Look Backwards: Study the past, what worked and didn’t work? History is a good teacher.
- Look Around: Study the present, listen to feedback. What do people need, want, or currently connect with? What can be merged to streamline something without adding limitation or confusion? Context is often as valuable as history.
- Look Ahead: What can you do that your customer or user hasn’t yet dreamed of? Being first can build positive impressions.
- Prioritize: Return to step 1 and start ranking. What does your brainstorming, research, and forecasting tell you? What is essential, optional, and extra?
- Develop a Game Plan: Categorize and list out your priorities so you can address the most important items first…before you run out of ad space, available UI elements, maximum word counts, or digital real estate. Know what to tackle first and backfill as appropriate.
- Execute: Take your game plan and put it into action. Prototype, sketch, wireframe- see what your ideas can look like as they begin to take shape and stack up with other items that “made the cut”.
- Test: Maybe things are beginning to look good, but do they work and follow logic? You want to find mistakes, omissions, and obvious improvements before your customers do. Wait a while, then test again. Use a different device or approach from a different angle.
- Refine: Take your test results and feed them back through the process. Anything missing? Anything excessive?
- Iterate: You’ve done research, design, functional testing, and tweaks. Now use that to your advantage and roll out across the board (or down your list). This is where you gain your efficiency and rapid productivity.
- Launch: Congrats, put things in the hands of others who don’t know how many steps it took you to get here. If they don’t slow down to notice, you did good.
If you’ve made it this far, you can easily tell that thoughtful, purposeful planning and production is not something that ‘just happens’. Its even harder to try and make it look good along the way. Speed to market vs. visual + functional quality…each situation calls for a unique and proper recipe. Hence the respect for things that successfully achieve the right look and the right feel. But the results are worth the effort, as that proper balance weaves its way back to the underlying business performance in the long run.