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The Truth Behind Bad Digital Strategy and Design

“To achieve a creative outcome we tend to filter this information down from grand business objectives to granular requirements using tools like specification documents, wireframes and user experience maps. Once a designer has these tools at their disposal, it is much easier to say: go nuts and design something amazing. ”

Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking Fast and Slow, offers a really meaty investigation in to the power of heuristic analysis, which is basically the theory of how humans turn assumptions into truths. In the introduction he points out the sorts of biases we all have to help us understand the world.

As I was reading the book it dawned on me that a lot of commercial design and marketing suffers from heuristics - design by trial and error. In fact, too many business decisions are based on trial and error. The most prominent evidence of this in our digital age is online. Websites are often poorly designed and developed without regard for statistical evidence, strategy, user testing and performance tracking.

To briefly counter this argument, the saying: fail often, fail fast, fail cheap really only applies where we're testing and measuring the results of digital campaigns. But doesn't apply when we're talking about expensive online projects and campaigns. So let's just set aside the semantics for a moment and focus on your central corporate website or digital strategy.

The Nobel laureate's philosophy really struck a chord with me, as it was easy to translate to a commercial sense. The very essence of great digital design and marketing comes from truly understanding your audience, their patterns of behaviour, and creating an outcome that resonates with their desires.

In my article, Web Designers versus Digital Marketers, I discuss why most web sites fail to deliver results and I allude to why effective digital marketing strategy improves the chance of achieving better results (and more profits).

In the aforementioned article, I feel the need to expand on why failure is so prevalent in situations where website building stands alone as a digital marketing strategy.

The answer is simple: too many guesses increase the risk of failure

We can easily translate that to our world of web design and digital marketing. If we guess how your target market perceives your brand, your products and services, and we guess how they wish to interact and engage with your business, then the risk of producing poor results are great.

Here are some basic ways we avoid web project failure:

  • Look at existing commercial data and establish benchmark performance
  • Develop a strategy to improve business performance
  • Create key performance indicators
  • Schedule the necessary campaigns
  • Execute strategy
  • Analyse results
  • Compare results with business objectives and KPI's

Creativity and Heuristics

Of course, with any creative design project, we cannot stifle a designer's right-thinking brain with numbers and graphs. My contention and strong belief, however, is that commercial designers should have a well-rounded understanding of the target market's needs and desires. Don't get me wrong - creativity is critical to the success of any digital design and marketing project. In fact, it could be argued with similar gusto and passion that poor creativity is the root of failure for ailing businesses. It's certainly on my hit list of things I dislike.

But there is a balance that designers must achieve between form and function; between useful and radical; between reality and far-out creativity.

Innovation in a controlled environment

So to achieve a creative outcome we tend to filter this information down from grand business objectives to granular requirements using tools like specification documents, wireframes and user experience maps. Once a designer has these tools at their disposal, it is much easier to say: go nuts and design something amazing.

The most innovative global businesses are creative beasts. Ikea, Apple, Nike. But they break new boundaries by truly understanding their audience. With less guessing, they're able to create outcomes that truly resonate, impress, and inspire their market.

We're essentially discussing the theory of creativity here but my point is that creating the right environment for a designer, a copywriter, a developer, or a creative director, with the right amount of information to suit each role is the key to creating a successful digital campaign.

Without this information, design is for the sake of design and has no purpose but to serve itself. That is the function of art (an obtuse view, but I'm making a point).

Indietech blog article author - Digital Marketing and Web Design insights
24-Oct-2014
Noted by Ben Dexter
marketing-strategy,website-design,graphic-design,campaign-management

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