How To Approach Design
New Design and Redesign
Good Design Is All About The Conversation.
You want your design or redesign project to be amazing, so you hire an agency like LayerCake. Great! We also want your project to be amazing. And we have twenty years of experience in designing digital experiences, products, and brands. So you’ve come to the right place. With all that experience, we know the success of any project is vulnerable to some common missteps. We’re always on guard for miscommunication, misalignment of expectations, and divided, disagreeing stakeholders watering down a final product with conflicting goals.
Depending on your project, you might work with a brand strategist, a UX designer, a creative designer, some combination of those, or even all three. Regardless of who exactly is on your team, our design process is meant to ensure we reach the end of your project with a strong, appropriate design we’re all proud of. But at first, some of our methods may seem confusing.
So let’s break down some things you may see a designer do on your project, and why we’re doing it to make your project the best it can be.
We are all about details
When you say “we want our site to be modern and different!” you probably have an image in mind of what that looks like. When a designer hears “modern and different” they might be picturing something that looks nothing like what you imagined. As an agency, we work with a wide variety of clients on an even wider range of projects. We know that everyone from small startup marketing sites to vast ecommerce platforms describe themselves as "modern and different." So it’s important for us to have a shared understanding of the vocabulary we use throughout a project. What does “modern” physically look like to you? Is it minimal? Heavily animated? Cute and illustrated?
For this reason, discovery is a crucial early part of a design project. During the discovery phase, we might walk through other sites, or audit your current site design and pepper you with questions about it, and perhaps even present high-level exploration work that tests out one or more potential directions.
All these exercises are tools to get everyone on the same page about the direction of the new design. It’s a lot easier to break down what “different” means to everyone when we actually have three different examples of “different” to compare and contrast. You may even surprise yourself. Maybe what you initially thought would look exciting and fresh, in reality will be too big of a deviation. Or maybe pushing the design even further will be the right way to go. The discovery phase helps us catch these surprises early on, before we’ve invested time and effort into fleshing out a full site design.
Designed for everyone
We all have our own tastes. Your favorite color, style of interior design, and even taste in music are probably pretty different from mine. And what you the client, the end user, and I the designer personally think makes a site attractive might be vastly different. Personally liking a design doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good, effective design for your site.
For that reason, an important part of the design process is defining goals and your target audiences for the new design. These are what ultimately inform our design decisions. Not our own personal tastes, and not your personal taste! But rather what will accomplish your goals and appeal to your intended audience. Maybe you personally hate when a site has a lot of empty, blank space. But your target audience spends more time on pages that don’t feel cluttered. Maybe to them a sparse design feels confident and approachable. And “be more approachable” was one of your top goals for the redesign. In that case, we’re going to push you to put your personal taste aside and go for a design with ample breathing room.
Our design decisions come from a number of places. The principles of design and the latest best practices in interactive design inform everything we do. Similarly, meeting WCAG accessibility standards is a priority for us that inevitably affects any redesign. Our decisions are also guided by a number of factors:
Our years of experience.LayerCake’s been around for 10+ years, so we’ve seen and done a lot.
- Our expertise in the industry. We stay on top of the latest innovations and trends in digital design, so our solutions are always evolving.
- Our research into you and your industry. we love to learn everything we can about both you and your peers. Whenever possible, we also use testing to hear your target audience’s reaction to a design firsthand.
So when we present a design to you, the question to ask yourself isn’t, “do I like how this looks?” but rather, “does this achieve the goals we need it to?”
The best things are culminated
With goals defined and a design direction decided on, we then go into mocking up high-fidelity pages. In a review meeting, you may give what you think is straightforward feedback. “Make that red button blue” or “add a ‘sign up for our newsletter’ CTA when you first come on the site” are clear, actionable points of feedback. But we will undoubtedly ask, “why?” And then we might ask “why?” again. Are we being argumentative or stubborn for the fun of it? Not at all!
Design feedback often describes a symptom of an issue, not the underlying issue itself. Part of doing our job is considering what’s at the heart of every suggestion and request, not just reacting. Is your suggestion describing a solution, or a symptom? And if it’s merely a symptom, what is truly the best solution? Maybe you were reacting to how eye-catching the button was when it’s red and turning it into a text link will be more effective than changing it to blue. Maybe you requested a newsletter modal because you want more newsletter signups and you saw a competitor site do something similar. But studies show users are put off by those kinds of modal ads, so we may instead design a callout in the middle of key pages, describing the benefits of your newsletter.
It’s not always exactly what you asked for, which can feel uncomfortable. It’s easy to give someone exactly what they ask for, but in the long run it’s doing a disservice to you and your site if we don’t deliver what will ultimately be best for the site.
We’re always happy to dig into the whys, both of your requests, and our solutions. So, when in doubt, let’s talk it out.
We are your advocate
Who are the ultimate decision-makers on your side? Will they be a hands-on team member throughout the project? Or will the work be presented to them at the near end of the project? The latter can feel like a tricky spot, that’s why we do everything possible to set our hard work together up for success.
Your insight is a key part of that. You are the expert of your company, your stakeholders, your board of directors, or whoever ultimately stamps that final seal of approval. Let us know early in the project if your CEO has an irrational aversion to red buttons. Tell us what design failures from years ago still haunt your board of directors, so we know to keep our design far, far away. Who will be unyielding and who just needs to be persuaded with facts and figures? We can tailor how we talk about the work accordingly.
To sum up..
Every design project is bound to be full of surprises, compromises, and learning experiences for both our team and yours. Expect the full range of human emotion. But know it’s not just you, we’re as fully invested in your redesign as you are. It’s all part of the process of giving you the very best final product we possibly can.