Good to Great: How to Build a Digital Design Process That Wins Customers


Good digital design is good for business. But great digital design is great for business.

That’s one of the key lessons we’ve learned from highly successful of companies like Apple, Airbnb, Starbucks, and Harrys. When you deliver a world class online experience to your customers, the results follow.

Companies with great digital design achieve deeper engagement, higher loyalty, and more clicks, shares, and purchases. According to the latest data from Nielsen, the average American spends more than 11 hours per day on mobile and digital devices. That means that the #1 touchpoint between companies and their customers is digital – phone, web, email and social. That’s where you win the hearts and minds of customers day in and out.

What does it take to move from good digital design to great? How can any company create online experiences that delight, the way the Starbucks app does when ordering a coffee, or how Airbnb make a reservation so easy and enjoyable?  As Brian Chesky, CEO and founder of Airbnb, rightly explained during one of his Ted Talks, “Design is more than just a look and feel. It’s the entire experience.”

Fortunately, with the right structure, team, and process, companies can develop digital design capacity and, over time, deliver great digital experiences every time. Here are six steps that any company can follow to take their digital design capacity to the next level.


1. Make Digital Design a Strategic Priority

The starting point is prioritizing digital design and starting to look at design as a strategic objective, not simply part of the marketing or design process. That means that online customer experience becomes a strategic, measurable objective and something that all levels of management get involved with.

For some companies, that means hiring customer experience officers, while others just add additional resources to their current team or hire outside partners. What matters is that your company understand the important of digital design and begin to view it as an investment, not an expense, that deliver a positive ROI.

Your design core is you’re your overall look and feel, your company’s simple visual story. It’s the colors, fonts, spacing, shapes, and images types that, like your logo, deliver a memorable experience that elicit the right emotions form your visitors.


2. Build a Strong Design Core

With a solid design core built design core in place, your design process will have a powerful base that enables you to more effectively create design variations that flow across your assets and media but stay true to your brand identity.

If you’re considering putting some real resources into rebuilding your digital design program, this may be a good time to do it. Creating a great design core isn’t easy, but it’s an essential part of building design capacity.


3. Implement a Smart Digital Design Workflow

If you run digital marketing or development team, you know first-hand how complex it is to design and deliver a large volume of content that is optimized for every device, browser and channel. Even for a startup or small business with only a couple social channels, getting everything done right is a huge challenge.

To design effectively and efficiently, companies need to implement an intelligent design workflow that takes into account their specific capabilities, resources, and deliverables. Intelligent digital design helps design teams – and the marketers that run them – to efficiently create new designs in a structured, logical way.

Like progressive design,  it enables teams to improve incrementally and see what’s working, but it gives you greater flexibility and offers better visibility into the progression of new designs. This is important because digital design is filled with unique scenarios and variations that can be reused or adapted for a new task.

Even with design sharing and platforms, digital design still requires a lot of micro-management and getting files and images to their destination. That can’t be fully managed at scale and – with the advent of personalization software – sometime requires even more imagery than before.  

Done the right way, a smart digital design structure can save time and resources and improving results because you use resources more efficiently, overdesign less, and minimize rework.


4. Get Sales and Your Executive Team Involved

All too often, marketing and design teams works in silos and don’t have established communications processes with sales and the executive team.

To make digital design becomes more of a company value driver and strategic objective, not simply a marketing add-on, input from sales is crucial. That includes the people running sales and the people that deliver the content and make the sales. A lot of times, sales reps will have input on the way content is delivered – or used – that the marketing and digital design team needs.

It’s also good to involve senior management in the development of your digital design structure and goal setting. If digital design is driving better results over time, you should be able to show tangible results.


5. Use Internal and External Resources Efficiently

A big problem companies run into – and this is particularly true for growing enterprises – is what design processes should be managed in-house.

In the perfect world, your company would have a big, highly experienced marketing, design, and development team sitting together and focused on a common goal. Most of the time, your team is dispersed and getting stuff done the right way and on time is a huge challenge.

Within your smart design system, figure out what parts of the design process you’re best at, and which ones are best handled by outside individuals or teams. With each new hire you make internally, you gain control, but add risk and may decrease net results.

Companies that use outsourced resources or agencies for specific tasks, projects, or process will typically (assuming you work with the right partner) perform better than companies that try to do everything in house.


6. Stay Focused on Your Brand and Customer

Always stay focused on the prize – your customers.

In his Ted Talk, Tony Fadell talks about how he led Apple’s first roll out of the iPod and managed the design process. He points to one of Steve Jobs’ core design principles of “staying beginners,” or keeping a fresh view of design and look at things the way our customers would.

Because your designers and marketing teams are immersed in the design process work, it’s hard to see things the way your customers do. As you launch new assets or campaigns, take a step back to analyze the visual story you’re telling your buyers. If your buyers are having a great online experience, then you’re creating great digital

About mordy

Mordy Karsch is Chief Optimyzer at Optimyz Interactive. He writes on topics related to content, strategy, and customer acquisition.

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