WordCamp Boston 2013 was held at the impressive Microsoft New England Research & Development (NERD) Center building in downtown Cambridge. The NERD building received a prestigious “green” award, and it truly felt good to be inside this building: great air quality, limited carpeting, colorful restrooms, and community spaces designed with collaboration in mind. It also had spectacular views of the Charles River, which is lined with golden maple trees this time of year. An added benefit was having lunch on the 10th floor and looking out on 20-30 sailboats navigating the river on a breezy Fall day.
Thinking about Microsoft’s NERD building reminded me of a talk at WordCamp about designing for the Internet: “Stop Making Things Pretty & Start Designing,” given by Chicago designer Michelle Schulp.
How would you define ‘design?’
When asked, most people think design is color and composition. It’s that, but so much more. Unlike art, which is a personal expression represented visually, design looks at the whole picture, because design is really about problem solving.
As a designer I work with my clients to help solve their marketing problem. In order to do this, I need to understand the big picture:
1. who they’re trying to attract: their perfect customer’s age, income level, and gender
2. their business model, and
3. what goals they’re trying to achieve: i.e. more sales; greater visibility; and/or message clarity so that more people know who they are and what they do.
As a website designer I focus on:
1. how their website looks to the user
2. how it’s experienced and
3. how it works.
As a problem solver I’m focused on:
1. how well the website communicates, so that any prospective customer can quickly decide if the product or service is what they’re in search of.
Website design in 2014
In late October, 2013, Yelp, Inc. announced that 64% of people using their online service are searching using mobile devices.
Mobile is changing everything because
• time is money
• more than 50% of all web searches are now done on a mobile device, and
• that percentage grows at least 4% every year.
If a website doesn’t download quickly on a mobile device, it will eat away your perfect customer’s data plan. So, today, it’s all about quick downloads and ‘getting to the point’ in under 3 seconds.
Website design, then, must solve the problem of how to communicate quickly and effectively, in order to give the visitor the most positive experience possible.
Design adds value
A well designed office space, like Microsoft’s NERD Center building, can create a positive work environment, plus encourage collaboration and innovation: that equals sales, sales, and more sales. Similarly, a website that’s planned for ease of use, and with your perfect customer in mind will lead to a positive user experience, which in turn, leads to more sales.
Good design is not an afterthought. When done well, it is the big picture that “…inspires and transforms an idea into a blueprint for something that adds value.” (Michelle Schulp)
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