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Odd bedfellows: creative design and process

    Creativity for business requires focus and rules. Break the process and it ends in tears. Make the guideliness too restrictive and the result will be bland. So what’s the best mix of the two?

    Category details: website design Adelaide, September 2022,

    Web design is one part creative talent and two parts process.
    Without a tested process to work within, even the best website designers will struggle to achieve consistent, high-quality results in line with what a client wants to achieve.
    As a hypothetical example, let’s assume we are working to redesign a website and your goals are:

    • improve user experience
    • drive conversions
    • minimise drop off from the conversion funnel
    • rationalise content.

    The following process would help a designer channel their creative output so that the new website not only looks great, it also achieves what it’s meant to.

    Pre-testing
    Experienced web designers know that the best outcomes come from having quality inputs at the start of a project. This is the “brief”, which goes beyond the technical specifications and creative likes and dislikes.
    The best briefs include reasoning that is backed up by data.
    Data from Google Analytics (GA) offers excellent insights that a creative person can use to guide their design concepts. In addition, website redesign projects often set up “heat mapping” or tracking on key pages, so that everyone on the project team understands the user journey – good and bad – as it currently occurs.
    In one web development project we worked on, the GA data showed very high drop off rates at certain points of the user journey – but it didn’t give an insight into why. When we watched the tracking, we could see exactly what people were looking at on the web page, which helped determine why exits were so high.
    When a great website designer sees this kind of quality input, they can create designs that overcome the problem.

    Mapping The Journey
    Do you, as the client, have other information that will help the designer understand your users, their motivations and their buying/decision habits? This might be market research. Or it may be statistics from your bank or credit card partners. Don’t overlook tradition “bricks and mortar” inputs, such as information from frontline staff about the questions they are asked and the behaviours they observe.
    By combining all of this data, an experienced web agency will be able to show you what the current user journey is now – and then compare it to the ideal customer journey.
    This will highlight the differences and opportunities.

    Testing Of Prototype
    Large and sophisticated sites would then generally opt for the development of a basic prototype. It will be functional, not aesthetic. The focus is less on design and more on user experience. For example, what components should go where on a page? What should the flow of pages be – what are the best navigation pathways? By testing this with end users, you are able to adapt your thinking before you totally commit to the website structure and design. 

    Design Solution
    Checking our action against the website’s stated goals, we know users must be offered clear pathways to meet their needs, while achieving the website’s needs (a conversion).
    If the main focus is to convert new business through the website, prominent calls to action such as “Get A Free Quote” or “Buy Now – Save 15%” are critical at each step of the journey.
    Trust signals will be important to convince people to either spend on your product or service, or to provide personal details. The best designers know what signals work and where they should be placed on a page. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different pages will benefit from different trust signals, ranging from soft testimonials to hard ecommerce trust icons.
    A good design process also syncs with an organisation’s branding. Colour selection must be complementary. Images must be selected to tell the right brand story. A corporate font may need to be interpreted into an easily readable web font. 
    As one of the goals is to reduce the amount of content, the designer needs to work with word counts. These are likely to differ for different types of page (eg. top level product pages versus general marketing pages versus deep informational pages). Your SEO expert should be included when making these decisions because if a page has an overly light word count, this  may hurt the newly launched website’s search results.  To have a beautiful website that fewer people see would be a major failing for most businesses.

    Inspirational Website Design
    Of course, all the information in the world isn’t going to help someone who isn’t a great designer. Aspects of design can be learned. Techniques can be memorised. But the truly great designers are natural talents. 
    The lead manager of a web project needs to understand how much information to share with their designer. Not providing enough information runs the risk of falling short of goals because of a lack of data that could have directed the design. On the other hand, if you supply too much information and fail to prioritise it, a designer can get bogged down trying to produce something that keeps everyone happy. 
    If you are looking to shortlist website design agencies for website quotes, take a good look at their portfolio. Their previous work is the clearest indication you will about their style and ability. It might be that someone is a creative genius but their style doesn’t match yours. It’s better to know this in advance – and not when your hair stands on end as they present their first design concepts.

    Summary
    Designers and ad agencies that don’t understand the need for process are a generally a hit-or-miss proposition. Good processes that are sympathetic to the creative alchemy of award-winning website design do not constrain a designer, they offer guide rails to keep them focused.
     

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