At Be Better Studios, our process is constantly undergoing revisions and improvements. Our approach to great design is fundamentally the same as most other design firms – employ proven design principles and techniques in order to maximize a product’s efficiency, potential and accessibility. However, where we differ from many design firms is in our definition of what great design is. We believe that a great product must meet a level of quality consistent with industry defining paradigms, but more importantly it also has to be a great product that our clients can take ownership and stand behind. Our unique approach allows us to make great functional products, but the payoff for us is not the product itself, it’s seeing our clients run with it. In this post, I’d like to talk a little bit about this approach for all the clients out there, in hopes that it can help inspire and motivate them towards bettering their product and inform them on what that process may look like.
Right away, it’s important to listen. We believe the discovery stage on any project starts with the first call or email, right in the beginning of the sales process. As a small firm, we often wear many hats and we enjoy the sales process as much as building and designing the product. So much can be learned in this process about a client and their product, but most importantly, it’s an opportunity to get to know the client and their tastes. We often ask for examples of products they like, information about the competition, industry experience, who the company decision makers are, and even some personal preferences. This information will not only help us streamline our research and information gathering stage, leading us right into the building process much faster; but also and more importantly, by the end of the sales process we’re signing an agreement and not a contract. It’s important for us to make sure our clients know that we will be working together with them to build the best product for their budget and not just working for them. This is why we sign agreements instead of contracts, and this is what we believe is the core of great design.
What follows is the usual discovery process: Q & A, document gathering, technical assessment, and content assessment. With all this information we create a list of goals and desired user behaviors. After we identify, build upon, or give purpose to a product, we can then begin the design stage. If the product is a website, here is where we examine the content in detail and construct a sitemap, wireframes, and an in-browser comp. If the product is a print piece, or an environmental graphic, we sketch ideas, and jump right into the comping process. Comping is the process of providing our clients examples of functionality, look and feel, and sometimes a representation of a user experience. This process can often go in many different directions depending on the client. Some clients are more visually oriented and will spend more time in this stage, where as some clients will need to see how things function in order to provide more feedback. Whatever direction the comping stage takes a project, the goal is to keep the client involved in every step along the way. After all, the client is the most important user of them all, and no one knows their product better. Involving the client in every step of the process encourages ownership of the product, which in turn goes a long way in the product’s ability to produce results after delivery.
Although on paper the design stage seems to end when you lay the project’s first brick, the design process still continues throughout the build and execution of the project. Especially when building websites. We’ve been building responsive websites since 2010 and the amount of opportunities for good design a responsive website provides continues to grow with each project. The medium of the web is an exciting playground from a technical perspective, but also the diversity of internet capable devices out there makes it an exciting design playground as well. However, in any medium, different challenges provide their own opportunities to learn and discover something new about the human experience and how real people interact with a product. When executing a design, we are always on the look out for improvements or directions to take a product which can be assessed within the current budget, or archived for a later revision. It’s our job to provide the best options and information to the client, ensuring that every step of the way they are maximizing the potential of their product.
The Be Better Process is a product itself, designed to provide an engaging experience from concept to delivery. We believe that even a great product could always be better and this includes our process. It is constantly evolving from our experiences working together with all our wonderful clients and watching their products succeed. We hope that this brief article provides you with an idea that our work delivers more than just a finished product. Our goal is to deliver the most functional and best designed product for your budget, and if you are proud of the results; well then, that’s great design.