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UX Thinking
Design

UX Thinking

Design thinking has been around since 1969 and is still going strong – here’s the full walk through the process to get your creative juices flowing.

Unsurprisingly, people have been using this methodology since it was first introduced in order to come up with meaningful solutions to problems, and to push the boundaries of innovation.

The most valuable products, regardless of their industry of sector, tend to solve problems for people. It’s a basic concept taught in most business schools: people are willing to pay money to have their problems fixed for them. From the UX side of design, you can create a tool that helps people live their lives to the fullest, with as little stress as possible.

The design thinking methodology is a means to that end. It’s natural that UX designers set out to solve people’s problems, whatever those may be – but solving problems can be challenging. After all, how do we even identify problems in people’s everyday lives? This can be more difficult than anticipated, especially so in the 21st century when we already have solutions for almost everything.

 

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What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a framework that UX designers can use in order to tackle big, complicated or even largely unknown problems in product development. Consider the design thinking process a framework for people who want to create solutions.

 

The Design Thinking framework was popularised by the Stanford Design School. Based on the Scientific Method, David Kelly, Co-founder of IDEO and founder of Stanford Design School, introduced empathy to the Scientific Method and Design Thinking was born! It was created as a way to make the creative process repeatable. And used as a system to approach difficult problems in order to create suitable outcomes.

Design thinking combines the problem solving routes of design with a hyper focus on users. Truly empathising with what else the user is doing, where they are using a product, what their motivations are and what they are trying to achieve by using a product.

 

Design Thinking, the Scientific Method and Agile

Like the Scientific Method and agile, it’s more than a methodology or framework. It’s a way of thinking, of approaching in a certain way to solving complex challenges, guided by some principals.

The Scientific Method, Agile and Design Thinking could be considered more like mindsets. They’re all approaches that focus on action and human (or natural) centred experiences that guide the team to the correct outcome. They’re all non linear, and can’t be completed by one specific approach. But are iterative, regularly testing and learning are used to guide the team and the design of the outcome. So you could think of Design Thinking of being an extension of the Scientific Method.

 

The process

In essence, the Design Thinking process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users, with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave.

1. Empathy

The first step isn’t to look at the market, the features your product will have or anything related to the product itself. The first thing you want to do is to focus on the user. The goal with this stage is to understand the user’s needs, wants, and hates.

What motivates them? What workarounds do they have daily? You want to gather a lot of knowledge about how users live their lives, and how you can help them enjoy life even more. This is where some knowledge of psychology comes in real handy. Some companies reach out to experts in human behaviour while other, smaller companies, simply settle for observing and trying to see things from the POV of the user.

You can achieve this by engaging with users – you can hold interviews, but try to make them casual and resemble more a conversation than a formal interview. A very important note regarding this stage in the design thinking process is that the designer needs to resist the temptation to form assumptions regarding users. This is more difficult than some realise, as it’s human nature to assume things about people. You need to take care, as assumptions can lead your product away from a real solution and into the realm of useless pretty products users don’t hate, but don’t need either.

Never assume you know enough.

Don’t think that after talking to the user once or twice you now understand their struggles and desires – it’s hardly ever that easy! Watch out for those assumptions that don’t rest on a solid basis of evidence like your product depends on it, because it does.

 

2. Define

This stage in the design thinking process takes aim at the real problem your design will set out to solve. Now is the time to take everything you know about the user and identify the problems, the potential to make user’s lives better.

You want to define the issue based on your user research, without losing sight of the human side of your product. Ideally, you would define the problem in question in a problem statement. Don’t make your company the center of it – remember to keep the user in the spotlight at all times. As opposed to making your statement “we need to…” aim for “users need….”.

 

You will, most likely, come back to this stage in the design thinking process once you start elaborating on your ideas and carry out some testing. Even the best and most experienced designer learns something new with prototyping and testing!

You shouldn’t resist changes to the problem statement. It’s better to keep coming back to this and make sure you have it right, as opposed to assume it’s perfect – only to find out once the product is released that you got something wrong. This is the core function of your product, it’s the reason why people will get it in the first place. You get the problem wrong, and your product will suffer the consequences.

 

3. Ideate

This is the part of the design thinking process most designers love: dreaming up possible solutions! At this point, you’ve done your research and have a clear understanding of who the product is for, what it’s meant to do for its users and why that matters to the users. Now, you and your team can start dreaming up ways that your design could check all the right boxes.

You’ll use your problem statement as a starting point and build from there. There are a wide variety of techniques for idea generation out there – most design thinking processes include brainstorming or the worst possible idea so people can get creative about their solutions.

At this stage, you want to get as many ideas down as possible. It’s ok if not all of those are feasible or realistic, you just want everybody on the team to let their ideas flow without judgement. You’ll separate the ideas according to their feasibility or awesomeness later on!

When it comes to ideas that chase innovation, we are usually confronted with the same trade off. The more innovative a product is, the more risk is involved on betting on that innovative product. How far you are willing to go into the risk pool of innovation is up to you and your team – but this dilemma is worth remembering when analysing the ideas you gathered in this stage of the design thinking process.

It’s recommended you hold the decision between ideas until you reach testing and have feedback from users.

At the end of this stage, you’ll have a short list of ideas you can pursue. These ideas will evolve to become your prototypes and, hopefully, your final product! Once you know which ideas you want to pursue, start developing each one until the divide between them becomes clearer – you don’t have to decide on one idea straight away.

 

4. Prototype

Time to get the winning ideas down into something tangible. UX designers will be familiar with the trade off: the more time and detail you allocate to the prototype, the more expensive that prototype is. In this case, the design thinking process calls for several prototypes, turning all the surviving ideas from the previous stage into low-fidelity prototypes.

Later on, you’ll find yourself adding more detail, more visuals and more interaction to the winning prototype. It’s important, however, to hold off on investing too much on the initial prototypes as most of them will be discarded when you’ve defined a winner.

Prototyping is crucial, because they make sure that there are no doubts over the main characteristics of the design. Using a professional prototyping tool is a necessity if you want to have a realistic idea of the finished product, as well as have the opportunity to add as much detail to the prototype as you see fit.

Remember that a prototype can be a functional replica of the product, made with a professional prototyping tool, or a wall of post-its. Both are valid ways of building on your ideas, of using the tangible to think on your design. The key is to identify one variable between different prototypes so you can clearly see the impact of each variable in the finished prototype.

Don’t stress if your prototype fails. It’s always preferable to have a prototype fail rather than the actual product. You want to have errors in judgement and potential problems in design stand out early, before you invest large sums of money into the development of the erroneous design.

 

5. Testing

As you would expect from a model that has been around for a long time, the design thinking process varies according to industry, sector or just plain preference. Sometimes, you’ll find that testing is added to the prototyping stage.

We here at Cove Solutions don’t recommend throwing both prototyping and testing into the same step – mainly because testing can require quite a lot of planning and preparation in its own right.

The Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford had some great advice for designers: prototype as if you know you’re right, test as if you knew you were wrong. Testing your prototype isn’t just about telling users to do tasks or asking yes or no questions. It requires planning and some level of expertise if you hope to get reliable feedback from users.

An important part at the testing stage of the design thinking process is validation. You want to have real users validade the key reasoning that underlines the design. This is the moment to double check that you have formulated the right problem, and that your solution actually contributes to the user.

Give the user your product and don’t explain or elaborate on it. Leaving users in the dark will provide for legitimate reactions, as people explore and use the product for the very first time. You want to ask open-ended questions that force users to elaborate on their feelings, as opposed to simple yes or no questions.

Testing is your opportunity to spot trouble with your prototype or areas for improvement – don’t be afraid to take it back to the prototyping stage or the beginning of the design thinking process. You’ll likely learn new insights that might change the way you look at your product, or at some features of the design.

It’s always preferable to put this insight to good use, and reiterate on your work. The more you learn from testing and the more you reiterate on the design, the higher the quality of the final product.

 

Final Thoughts

Design Thinking should not be seen as a concrete and inflexible approach to design; the component stages identified in this blog serve as a guide to the activities that you would typically carry out. In order to gain the purest and most informative insights for your particular project, these stages might be switched, conducted concurrently and repeated several times in order to expand the solution space, and zero in on the best possible solutions.

As you will note, one of the main benefits of the five-stage model is the way in which knowledge acquired at the later stages can feedback to earlier stages. Information is continually used both to inform the understanding of the problem and solution spaces, and to redefine the problem(s). This creates a perpetual loop, in which the designers continue to gain new insights, develop new ways of viewing the product and its possible uses, and develop a far more profound understanding of the users and the problems they face.

Why Brand Guidelines Are Important
Branding

Why Brand Guidelines Are Important

Brand Guidelines communicate a variety of things about your brand, both internally to your organisation or business, as well as externally to your partners, affiliates and the general public. What components a brand guideline contains is not standard across the industry, but the most discernible organisations utilise brand guidelines as a resource for everyone to understand how to represent their brand.

Brand guidelines can contain sections on:

  • Your brand identity (mission, core values, personality, tone, elevator pitch, etc.)
  • Your brand assets and the appropriate use of them (logo, colour palette, typeface, spacing, backgrounds, etc.)

Brand guidelines are a very useful resource when re-branding or starting a new company as a way of communicating with current and prospective customers within your target audience. They are a set of rules to create a unified identity when connecting multiple elements within your brand, such as colours, your logo, and your typography. Here are other compelling reasons to have a set of brand guidelines.

 

Consistency

Every time someone visits your website, sees your business card, or receives marketing material from your company, they receive a perception of your company outside of the content they actually consume. By having set rules and restrictions, it becomes possible to communicate a consistent brand identity.

Consistency is important in making your brand recognisable and reliable. It ultimately communicates that your brand takes pride in the details.

 

Setting Standards and Rules

Your brand guidelines are composed of rules on how to use your brand’s visual elements. These rules will include when to use a logo versus a wordmark, how to space the logo, and the hierarchy of colour and typography. You probably know your brand’s identity inside and out, but a new employee may not. Brand guidelines are a valuable tool for your employees to keep your brand cohesive. Twitter’s brand guidelines do an excellent job of defining acceptable ways that other people can display their logo.

 

Recognisable

Keeping your brand consistent allows it to be more immediately recognisable within your industry and with your target audience. Building a recognisable brand can take a lot of time, but your brand can quickly be distinguishable by adhering to your brand guidelines. Take a look at Google’s brand guidelines. They have become one of the most recognisable companies.

 

Staying Focused

When introducing new products or services, a brand can get stretched too thin. By implementing brand guidelines, you have the tools to quickly and effectively maintain consistency. Brand guidelines help you aim your business’s interests with your intended audience.

 

Value

When a brand’s identity is cohesive, it increases the brand’s perceived value. Consistency allows your brand to appear more professional and reliable. By implementing brand guidelines, you make it easier to maintain the quality and integrity of your brand’s image.

 

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What is Included in Brand Guidelines?

“Since no two brands are exactly the same, the elements included in your brand guidelines may not look the same as a different brand’s guidelines. However, there are three common elements included in every brand identity guidelines”

 

Colour Palette

These are the colours that make up your brand. It can be wise to not use too many colour options. Brand guidelines should include RGB and CMYK colour codes, so your colours stay consistent between web and print formats.

 

Typography

Brand guidelines will include typefaces and families, font sizes, and the hierarchy of the fonts your brand uses.

 

 

Logo Design

How your logo should be displayed in different formats is an important part of your guidelines. This could include size restrictions, which colours to use, and how your logo should be displayed on different backgrounds. Sometimes it can be beneficial to show how logos should NOT be displayed–seeing your logo stretched in odd ways or put on difficult-to-read backgrounds is not ideal.

 

Additional Elements that may be included:

 

Imagery

Imagery could include the style of photographs, wordmarks, or icons your company uses on your website or marketing materials.

 

 

Brand Tone

Brand tone refers to the words that your company chooses to use in order show your brand’s values and personality.

 

 

Without brand guidelines it is nearly impossible to keep your brand’s identity consistent. If you are ready for brand guidelines, then you need a strategic branding team, like Cove Solutions to help.

Contact us, and we will build your brand through creative, industry leading concepts and digital design. Helping you maintain a strong, cohesive, and distinguishable brand.

4 Ways to Grow Your Sales With Social Media
Branding Marketing Strategy

How To Better Engage With Customers

CEOs want to see a high return on investment and the pressure put on marketing teams to prove that strategies are working is through the roof. With social media changing every day and marketing teams coming up with new creative ways to engage, we feel it’s important NOT to forget the basic fundamentals of customer engagement.

Here is a refresher of why engagement is so powerful, not only in acquiring new customers but also in maintaining the satisfaction of those that already exist.

 

Nurture

The most basic of the fundamentals–nurturing your customer relationships. Think of your customers (potential and existing) just like you would any relationship in your life. Let’s break this down. When you’ve identified a prospective friendship, you begin to take appropriate steps that will help you build the relationship. An effort is put into a relationship building process that might begin with a few texts here and there, that may lead to invites to grab a coffee (or a couple of cocktails, let’s be real lol), and hopefully regular meet-ups, but certainly not without continually fostering the connection. The work is never complete, and just because the initial effort was put forth, does not mean the relationship will last.

 

Continually adding value through meaningful interactions throughout the relationship is just as imperative to the success of the relationship as the initial interaction. This is no different for your business, and this also includes knowing when to, well…chill. You wouldn’t overwhelm your new friend with constant texts, phone calls, or emails, just because the individual hasn’t responded, or declined an invite, so don’t make this mistake with your customers. Keep it simple, and don’t be clingy.

Build on your connections through interactions, such as email, that have a clear and meaningful goal.  Be aware, this doesn’t translate into ‘always shoot to sell.’ This will turn people off because purchasing is not always relevant to a customer’s journey. Recognize when your message is coming on too strong, and drive your engagement based on where your customers are in the buying process.

 

Always Have An End Goal

Before sending an email, posting on social media, or engaging in any way with customers, think about the end goal. What, exactly, is the interaction supposed to achieve? Then, be very clear, so there is no confusion in your message. Remember, you (a human), is trying to engage with potential or existing customers (also human), so avoid using language that is difficult to understand. Be real, relatable, and clear.

 

Not only should your messages have a clear goal, but your entire engagement effort should be mapped with purpose, from delivering content at the right time, to being able to appropriately develop steps to reach that goal. Timing plays a key role in just about everything. This rings true for engagement between company and customer. It is important to identify the personas of your customers to better understand when the timing will be most beneficial to engage. This includes the best times to post on social media which, by the way, is early afternoon on a weekend via Facebook.

Again, remember to remain mindful of where your customers are at in the buying process. Nothing says disconnect like sending a welcome-email to an existing customer, or a “We’ve missed you” message, to a customer who recently purchased a product. Engage with your audience by creating specific and relevant goals for each interaction throughout the entirety of the buying process.

 

Patience

Part of effectively engaging with customers is patience. As mentioned before, don’t overwhelm your customers by trying to rush the process. ‘Rome was not built in a day’ and your customer relationships will not either.  Every individual who reads your blog, visits your website, and views your social media page or post, is at a different stage of the buying process. Expecting a potential customer, who has recently subscribed to company emails, to immediately begin purchasing is just asking too much. Relax, because overloading email subscribers in attempts to spark a purchase will backfire. Be patient. It will benefit your business in the long run.

 

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Utilise Tools To The Full Extent

It is important to recognise that the fundamentals of customer engagement really boils down to knowing your audience. Who is your business targeting and how is that audience reacting to engagement efforts? If your business is not using video to engage with customers, you are missing out on connecting to a huge population. Forbes reported that 84% of Millennials (who make up one-quarter of the nation’s population and have been identified as the largest generation of consumers) don’t trust traditional marketing. They want to visualise and interact with content because it is what Millennials are familiar with and understand. Developing a video, a poll on Instagram or maybe a live stream to fit your audience might be the perfect way to create customer engagement. But how do you get a better understanding of what type of engagement appeals to potential and existing customers? Once this question is answered with research and knowing your end goal, you will better be able to utilise your marketing tools to facilitate customer engagement.

It is essential to make sure your engagement efforts are getting a return on investment by watching the numbers. You need to know who is clicking and reposting on Facebook and Instagram, you alos need to be aware of click rates in emails. Understanding your audience will help facilitate engagement.

Take full advantage of the tools available to assist your business in its customer engagement efforts. Doing so will build the confidence needed to believe in your plan, and remember to be patient while properly nurturing your leads and existing customers. Strive to be different, but don’t forget about the fundamentals of what makes a good business, a good business.

“Rome was not built in a day”

 

In the comments, let us know how you best engage with your customers