Designers Aren’t Thinking About You (and that’s a good thing)

In case you missed it, I’m dedicating some time to think about how digital marketing experts work. I’m taking your questions about how we work as well as asking my own. In addition, I also want to clear up some misconceptions surrounding full service digital marketing. So, with that in mind, recently I posed this question to my team:

“What do you want clients (and potential clients) to know about how we work?”

Without missing a beat, one of our designers said, “we’re not thinking about clients in the design process…”

Yikes. That’s not what I was expecting to hear.

In the conversations I’m involved in—the ones that result in a digital marketing project—the client is my #1 priority. My goal is to pinpoint their initial needs, as well as their long-term goals to establish exactly what they need from our team. Thinking about the client and what we can do for her is my whole thing…it’s my whole job.

So, imagine my surprise when I realize the client is not the priority of the designers on my team. I’m committed to telling you, reader, how we work; but this initial revelation seemed like a hard pill to make you swallow.

It just seems negative. At Papercut, we’re committed to being superfriendly. Our friendliness is a defining company characteristic. And I know the quality of work our design team delivers. It’s stellar. We also have a trail of extremely happy clients, so I have to assume that the best and friendliest practice is for our designers to not be thinking about our clients when they’re designing a website…somehow.

So, I’m processing and weighing all of this internally…and that’s when he finishes his sentence

“…we’re thinking about their users.”

Bingo. Got it!

The signature of a good design process is one that is focused on the user experience over the client’s experience.

To clarify, this doesn’t mean that we stop caring about our clients once they’ve completed their conversation with me, or that we ignore their needs and concerns. On the contrary, clients who choose Papercut have an incredible project manager who will work with and listen to them throughout the process. And a huge component of our process is training and empowerment, making our Content Management System (CMS) easy and stress-free to use once the site is built. Our goal is to always be working to the betterment of our client’s business.

It just means that this is not where the focus of our design team should be. Our design team is forward thinking. They’re thinking about the user at the other end of the project–the one who is actually utilizing the website–considering the individual who knows little to nothing about the way your business operates or has to offer. And they’re designing a site that caters to the thought process of the user, flowing with her so she is able to find everything she needs to move forward—whatever that call to action is—with your business.

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to call a business in order to find something on their website? Did it endear you to them? Me neither.

Recently, I’ve been looking for a new dentist. Like everyone nowadays, I’m making my decision based almost entirely on the dentist office’s website. I have a few needs that need to be addressed upfront before I make a decision:

  • Location– I’m looking for an office that’s close by.
  • Reviews– I want to see some solid testimonials and case studies of the work they’ve done. And I don’t want to have to dig for those reviews.
  • Expectations– I want to know what I can expect from a teeth cleaning and initial visit. Bonus points if they can alleviate any anxiety I might have about a dental visit.
  • Insurance– I need to make sure I’m in network.
  • Bonus points if I can book an appointment online.

I think I’m a pretty average case when it comes to dentistry. I’m looking for fairly standard information. I don’t think I’m asking for anything out of the ordinary. And yet, some offices’ websites didn’t make it easy for me to get those answers. Some sites still weren’t mobile friendly, which, given that as of 2018, over 50% of all worldwide website traffic is conducted from a mobile phone, is inexcusable. If a dental office isn’t considering my needs when they built their website, I don’t trust them to consider my needs when they’re putting a drill in my mouth either. In those cases—when the website doesn’t readily answer my standard questions—I bounce from the site quickly.

While the data varies depending on your metric, your industry, and who is collecting the data, it’s safe to say that most of the visitors spend less than 30 seconds on a website, and they make a decision on the quality of the site in less than 10 seconds. If a website can compel a visitor to stay longer than 30 seconds, then they’re more likely to spend a significantly longer period of time on the site. If a website doesn’t work for your desired user—if they can’t find what they’re looking for—they’re not going to hang around. They’ll move on to your competitor’s website, the one that has what they need in an easily navigable way. Websites can’t just look good. They need to make sense to the person using it. That means that before we start designing a website, we always want to conduct significant research.

In our history, we’ve found that the most successful projects start with robust strategy research. I can’t imagine a scenario in which a strategy project doesn’t deliver a significant return on investment. When we work with a company’s marketing team, developing business requirements together based on research, persona development and knowing how these personas use the internet, and an understanding of key stakeholder needs, that’s when the digital marketing magic truly happens.

The big questions we work to answer in a strategy project are: “who is going to visit this site?” and “What are they going to do once they’re on the site?”

By considering the user, our designers aren’t just making projects—websites, digital content, etc.—that are nice to look at. We’re designing something that works for you by being catered to them (your users). Often, this looks like a creating 24/7 sales tool that answers questions when you can’t.

In an era when it’s possible for anyone to make a good-looking, modern website, it’s easy to underestimate the value of bringing in a team of digital marketing experts. I get it. When you can make something look professional without a professional, it’s easy to forget their value.

But here’s the truth: without a good designer, you’ll likely build a beautiful, custom website…for you. It’s important to keep in mind, your website is about you, not for you.