Strategic Design: What is it and how to implement it.

A strategic design is the process of combining the company goals and the creative process to create an effective and user-friendly interface. This means your website needs not only to visually appeal to the correct audience, but also display the correct style to accomplish the company’s goal. These five steps will help in accomplishing these goals and create an effective strategic design.

Step 1: Establish Your Goals

A successful website has a specific goal to achieve. This may be to sell a product, create new customers, have users contact the company for a free trial, or many other goals. Whatever the goal is, it needs to be the focus of the site and the navigational direction of the creative strategy.

Goals need to be quantitative and measurable. Simply having a goal of increasing sales is too vague and cannot be validated. Lets alter this goal to: convert online clicks-throughs to completed sales by 20% in the first quarter. This goal addresses may be, users clicking items and placing them into the cart, but never completing the transaction. This goal defines the problem and the desired solution in a quantitative manner and can be tracked through analytic tools.

Be aware of the client that does not know the goal of the website and just says, “I don’t know, we just need a website”. Stop the process right there and develop the goals, before you head down a path of wasted time, frustration and disappointment. Know your purpose, develop a plan and create a path to a successful website.

Step 2: Identify Your Audience

The look, style and functionality of your site depends on who your intended audience is. What are the demographics: gender, profession, age, tech competency, and many other factors play a key role in a website’s creative strategy. Some users need more direction on how to navigate a website. Other users understand the nuances of user interfaces and can navigate with far less instructions. For instance, the audience of a gaming website for a young user needs a much different design style than a business journal website visited by professionals.

Step 3: Determine Your Brand Image

Coca-Cola Logo

As designers, we need to be careful not to be blinded by the latest design trends. These trends may look cool but can dilute a website’s success by creating an off-brand creative strategy.

A website is an extension of a company’s brand and needs to align with the client’s brand. Not only products, but also companies have a “brand”. Brand is another word for image, which can be created with color, fonts, graphics, photographic styles and many other creative assets.

There are many examples of phenominal brand image. Just a glimpse of the Coke red or Disney swoosh font is instantly recognizable. A psychological emotion instantly comes to mind when seeing these logos. The brand is carried throughout every company correspondence from packaging, hangtags, signage and of course websites.

Step 4: Goal-Driven Design

The creative strategy can be implemented when the objectives,  goals, audience and brand image have all been determined. The design strategy will determine the interface design style and user-flows which need to match the audience and website goals. For instance, If the website focus is entertainment, an “experience” should be created. Through the use of color and imagery, a style and emotion will be created to enhance the experience and the effectiveness of the website. If the website focus is information consumption (a blog or news), the focus is usability and readability. An interface like this would be organized and precise so it does not distract. Adding imagery and emotion to this type of website would be ineffective since the audiences objective is accessing information quickly and without clutter.

The creative strategy needs to be adjusted to fit each individual website’s objectives, goals and audience. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Step 5: Measure Results and Revise

Congratulations…your website is live. Now it is time to measure the success and make any adjustments. A website is always evolving in its content and technology, and needs constant attention.

It cannot be known if the design strategy was on target, unless testing is completed and the fulfillment of goals is measured. The key word is “measured”. If the goal is to increase the number of sign-ups to your service, measure it and see if your changes are making a positive impact. If you want to increase the number of subscribers to your blog, check your RSS stats. If you want to increase user involvement, see if you get more comments or more forum posts.

By completing a Google search, you can find many tools to measure analytics. The most common (and free) tool is Google Analytics which includes page overlays to see what links are being clicked on most, keyword identification, the ability to track conversion flows and many other measurable data.

 Have fun creating an awesome (and effective) website now that you have a roadmap to a successful creative strategy.