6 min read
Creative process for digital UX design
Often, our creative team is seen as the guys and gals who make web pages look good. And that’s not wrong, either. They do that. But what makes our team unique is the process we follow to integrate with cross-functional teams and create thoughtful, intuitive digital experiences for our clients’ end users.
We work together—no, really.
Some of Ntara’s best projects have UX and design at the helm, with collaboration from every department in our organization. We hold regular meetings for section kick-offs, internal review, and content strategy. We have dedicated chat channels for each project. We work out many details through hallway conversations and impromptu whiteboard sessions.
Our designers rely on each department to provide unique perspective.
- Account team – What is the business goal that drove this specific project? How have the business goals changed? Can you get us another stakeholder interview?
- Front end – Are there any new technologies or interactions you’ve come across recently? Here’s what I’m thinking. How can we make it happen? How can we work together to make the mobile design phase more efficient?
- Content – How can we make this messaging more powerful or impactful? Who’s coming to this page? What do we know about them? What have they learned on the site already? What are they expecting here?
- Analysts – What are the metrics on the current site? How does what we know about site performance influence the strategy for this page? What industry trends should we be considering?
- Back end – Here’s how this web part should function across various page types. Do you see any issues with that? Is there anything I’m not thinking through that might be critical?
Our designers and writers are friends.
Clients often ask what comes first—content or design. The truth is, it goes both ways. Ideally, it’s iterative. What’s more important to understand is that neither design nor content is considered “finished” until they both are. The best projects involve quite a bit of back-and-forth as both design and content evolve.
Content strategy informs design and design informs content strategy.
- What are the various paths to each page?
- How do those change for each persona?
- What content blocks are variable across a given section?
- How does each design decision affect the content on a page?
Our best projects allow content and design to develop strategies from their own areas of expertise, then iterate together. Each iteration surfaces new edits that make our designs even stronger. And while this could go on forever in the name of perfectionism, we (almost) always know when it’s time to stop iterating and move designs into development.
We let our people shine.
Our designers are exceptional. They produce thoughtful, creative solutions to our clients’ toughest business challenges. They define and develop brands. They do everything UX designers should and, honestly, much more.
Their creativity is contagious. Their collaborative approach is inspiring. Both directly and indirectly, our designers challenge the rest of us to do our best work by giving us the opportunity and responsibility to inform their designs.
At Ntara, our front end developers do more than convert comps into code. Unlike many agencies, they are an integral part of our creative team. They have a significant voice in the design process, and the end results are better for it.
Our back end does more than develop. They consult regularly with design—throughout development and QA—to ensure each detail in the final product meets or exceeds their initial expectations.
Our content team does more than write. They challenge the status quo. They understand the complexities of matrixed approvals, and have experience turning corporate jargon into customer-focused content. They develop content strategy based on a long list of inputs and can help you keep track of the details.
Our analysts do more than provide site performance data. They investigate UX design hunches and either confirm or adjust them, based on data from actual customer behavior. They keep a finger on the pulse of the competitive landscape and inform all departments as needed to correct course.
And our designers don’t just motivate other Ntarians. They push our clients, too—to accept new ways to solve old problems, to step outside their corporate comfort zones, to let go of preconceptions, and to have faith in the process (or lack thereof).
We’re kind of obsessed with efficiency.
This might seem to fall outside the creative process, but it doesn’t. We are always looking for ways to streamline our builds. By saving time in development, we create more time for design. And when we establish reusable standards throughout a site, we can better ensure a consistent user experience.
On many sites, our design and development teams spend significant time creating pattern libraries. Design identifies opportunities for reusable, custom web parts and works with front end to create the reusable and replicable “molecules” or “building blocks” throughout the site. This empowers the team to work faster and, in many cases, empowers the client to easily and efficiently create additional pages within the CMS in the future.
Front end framework
Front end has also developed a custom framework to streamline development. The team built it with Ntara’s designers and back end team—and the strengths and limitations of ASP.NET—in mind. The nomenclature is standardized, and the framework is repeatable. That means all devs in our agency (both front end and back end) are able to contribute, and they never have to start from scratch on a new site.
We love what we do.
We have a lot of fun, but we take our work seriously. Our team thrives on creating sleek, sophisticated designs that provide elegant solutions to real-world problems. And we welcome opportunities to buck tradition and give brands a new perspective.
With every project, there are typically really high highs and pretty low lows—but above all else, we’re in it together. We empower our team to make decisions and we foster a culture of healthy debate. And when we hit our collaborative groove, we produce inspired creative that is as functional as it is beautiful.
We embrace the mess.
Our creative approach takes time. It’s iterative, often exhausting. Sometimes the place we end up is miles from where we started. And we are always learning.
Design should be the quarterback of the creative process, relying on the expertise of the rest of the team to execute each play. When we approach projects this way—collaboratively and deliberately—the result is stellar creative that fits each audience’s needs.
“Good creative” is subjective. Truth be told, a good “creative process” is too. But if your design satisfies the end users’ needs and fulfills the goals of your business, that isn’t subjective. That’s success. And that’s what we’re working toward.
We take pride in our work.
Our best designs are the product of collaboration, born after hours over takeout Thai food. Here are a few recent examples that illustrate some of Ntara’s best collaborations:
Our team conducted stakeholder interviews with several cross-functional team members at this outpatient surgery center in Greenville, North Carolina. We defined multiple patient personas—senior, adult, child, out-of-town—and learned that they (and their caregivers) were typically overwhelmed and felt uninformed about surgery.
Design focused on creating a site that was as genuine and welcoming as the SurgiCenter itself. The home page highlights many human elements and clearly articulates a four-step, phased approach to surgery, serving up more specific information as you dig deeper.
The “stories” section of the site serves as a beautiful, functional example of the power of strong collaboration between our designers and front end developers. Design had the idea for ways to prominently feature stories on the site. Front end found some relevant examples and technologies to bring these ideas to life without being restricted by the CMS.
This is a great example of collaboration within a team. The task at hand was to redesigning the website for Vidant Health Foundation, the fundraising arm of one of the country’s largest Healthcare Providers. Rather than go with the obvious “fund this initiative” approach, our inspiration drove us to help the foundation “fund hope.” That idea evolved into another: What if we could fund real life experiences? The kind of things that Vidant patients wouldn’t be able to do without the help of the foundation? Before long, “fund sand castles” and “fund karate” were born. And as each patient story came together, excitement behind the concept grew. And to humanize the concept even further, design worked with front end to incorporate a handwriting technique to this section of the home page.