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Here’s How Strategy Can Elevate Your Design

Sut Srivisarvacha

October 13, 2020 · 3 minutes

If you’re looking to give your website a little oomph you may not understand how strategy can elevate your design.

Design is as important as ever to the success and survival of businesses.

In a world where tiny changes can have big results—asking for a phone number in a form can decrease conversion rates by 48%—design thinking is paramount. 

But how does one “design-think?” 

Let’s find out…

What Is a Design Strategy?

A team of developersDesign strategy is the focal point of good decision making. It’s where teams can congregate and align on:

  • The problems being solved
  • The problems not being solved
  • The ideal outcomes
  • User groups and stories
  • Deliverables

Having agreement on these key items frees up designers to explore solutions that serve the end goals and users without the dreaded “sync” meetings. Or worse, presenting a solution out of line with the project.

Design outputs are often non-binary in how they are evaluated. This means there needs to be an agreed-upon framework where all parties can determine if the solution serves the strategy.

Creating a Design Strategy

The first step in any design project includes multiple conversations surrounding goals, users, research, problems, and deliverables. It also involves talking to people, herding groups of designers and non-designers, and narrowing down the project’s scope. 

Talking

Perhaps the most important part of design is speaking with the people that use, create, and pay for the product. This means customers, team members, and higher-level executives. 

To start, schedule calls with a few people that represent all of the above categories.

Generally, these calls should take around 30 minutes to 1 hour each and be relatively informal. In these conversations, you can dive deep into the frustrations, use cases, concerns, and experiences of users.

During this phase, make sure you take plenty of notes and keep track of themes as they come up across conversations.

Herding

Once you’ve had time to speak with enough people it’s time to gather your team into one room (or Zoom call) to go over the findings. 

During this stage the goal is to align all of the team members on the problems found during the Talking phase and promote discussions on…

  • The biggest problems
  • Whether they’re solvable
  • What resources you have for the project

The outcome of this should be to create an initial take on a design strategy. It should have an outline of the problems to be solved, why those problems are important, who will be responsible for what, and a rough idea of the timeline.

Narrowing

Now it’s time to narrow down the scope as much as possible.

The key to the success of a project comes down to being intentional about exactly what needs to be done and how to measure the solution. 

From this point onwards, the group of people in the discussion should be whittled down to only the members who will be responsible for execution or approvals.

With a smaller group, it will be easier to discuss concerns, ideas, and requirements. The goal is to make the path to success as narrow as possible so that the design work is simple.

The output from this stage of the process should be the close-to-final design strategy.

Using a Design Strategy

A picture of a laptop and mouse comboNow that the team has the guidelines in place for a successful project, it’s time to follow them. This can be done by simply questioning the work being done:

Does this solution help solve the problem and how? 

Every major decision should trace back to these two questions because it is the core rationalization of executing the project in the first place. It also makes it easier to present solutions, make decisions, and get buy-in from internal and external stakeholders.

Putting It All Together

This entire process is essentially a prolonged questioning session…

  • What are we doing?
  • What problems are we solving?
  • How are we going to do it?
  • Who is doing it?
  • When will we need to deliver a solution?
  • Is the solution proposed going to solve the problem? How?

Great solutions are created by teams that constantly question their approach and output, forcing the kind of discussions that yield deep insight and deeper questions. If you find your team questioning the purpose of the project, you’re in the right place. 

Nobody has all the answers and it shouldn’t be expected even from the project lead. That’s why the design strategy is so valuable; it provides the guidelines through which any team member can find the answers they need at a given point.

Need some help getting your design strategy off the ground?
Reach out directly to schedule a free consultation.

About Sut Srivisarvacha

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