Love, Choice and Listening: Tips for reducing frustration in the design process

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I had an employee once who diligently worked on each design and architecture plan. She functioned as part architect and part UX strategist for the team. Working from home, she would spend hours perfecting one unadulterated proposal. The problem came in when she would present her plan to the customer. The meetings dissolved into an agitated debate over best practices and customer wants.

Often she had not spent much time hashing out needs and wants of the customer. Instead she trusted only what she learned from books and experts. She would become agitated with the customer and their stupidity. How could they not realize the gift she had just presented? Did they not understand the amount of time and knowledge that had been invested?

This is not a unique story in the business of communication design, but here are a few ideas for overcoming.

  1. Don’t fall in love with your work. For the creative type that can be easer said than done. But you will find, in the long run, that if you are open to critique and criticism your work will improve expediently. Everyone needs a good editor and if you are open to the feedback of both experts and laymen your perspective will be enhanced along with your talent. Yes it does sting a little, especially when you are first starting out, but over time your skin will become thicker.
  2. Always design two options. Not 3 or 15, just two. To many options can paralyze your decision maker. Design two options that you are happy with and proud of. When you present the two options to the customer they may feel like they have some control and voice in the design process leading to increased buy in. Together you can work through both designs and select the best bits from each. Designing a second option is also important for stretching yourself as a designer. While you may think the first design was perfect, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you come up with when you force yourself to create a second version.

For more on choosing: Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze, written by Alina Tugend and published by The New York Times

  1. For goodness sake, you are not designing the thing for you so listen to the people who hired you. And maybe don’t just listen, watch and observe a little too. Get up close and cozy with your customer’s process, who they are and what they need. It is your job to create a solution to their problem so make sure you fully understand the problem and then apply your expert opinion and best practices to that problem. Just don’t forget that while your understanding of UX or communications may far exceed theirs, their understanding of the business they run and the needs of their customers far exceeded yours.

More on listening: Why You Should Listen to the Customer, by Braden Kowitz, published by The Wall Street Journal

Creativity is hard work…

Sometimes we toil long hours and sometime the ideas just pop into our heads, like divine inspiration.  Brainstorming and white-boarding can help, but sometimes letting go a little is what you or your staff need in order to get the creative juices flowing. If you manage a creative workforce don’t forget to nurture their brilliance by allowing a little daydreaming from time to time.

This interesting infographic helps to remind me that while it ain’t digging ditches, it ain’t always easy either.

The path to creativity
The path to creativity

— Graphic borrowed from VirusComix.com
— Shared by Shelley H. Carson, PhD, Department of Psychology Harvard University

Misconceptions in Content Marketing

Content Marketing is not the silver bullet for online marking, and it ain’t easy, but these days it should be a part of your marketing efforts. The big misconception is that your customers will go directly from reading your content to purchase your product. When that does not happen it is easy to give up.

Content Marketing is about building awareness and being a voice in the market. It is about introducing your brand to your potential audience and building a relationship with them. The only difference between content marketing and traditional networking and PR efforts is that you can do it from home in your PJs.

Video borrowed from SEO MOZ’s Whiteboard Friday series

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What the heck are technical requirements and how do I get some?

So, you want to build a website or an application, and some tech/geek is at your door asking for technical requirements. What do you do?

Don’t panic.

A project manager with strong technical skills could help you navigate the task, but just in case you find yourself in a new found project manager role, here are four tips:

1technical-requirements21. Keep an eye on the prize
The key to getting the technical requirements right is to focus on your project goals first.

Clearly identify what your outcomes should be and get feedback from your stakeholders. If you don’t know what your goals or outcomes should be, your project will be all over the place and it will have a hard time getting off the ground.

Continue reading “What the heck are technical requirements and how do I get some?”