Objective based design is rapidly gaining popularity as the new standard of thinking around digital design and can be broadly described as a “top down” method of design.
Essentially it’s a process of identifying your business’ objectives for a product – digital or otherwise – and working backwards from there, modifying the user’s experience through a series of strategic experiments. These experiments are designed to reduce what’s known as friction points.
A friction point is any part of the user’s experience which may prevent them completing the goals you want them to complete whilst interacting with your digital assets. Your goals are generally quantifiable, trackable actions users can take that support the business objective you’ve defined. Your objective can be anything, but should relate to an area of your business with the potential for the most growth.
For example, a start-up business’ objective could be simply establishing a user-base. To achieve this objective, objective based design would look for friction points users encounter when completing goals like downloading an application, or completing a sign-up form. For an established firm with an objective of increasing average client value, an objective based strategy might examine friction points in the existing user’s experience of signing up for additional products and services your business offers.
For far too long, a lot of businesses digital assets have operated as monolithic and static; things like the company website were designed to simply do a job, rather than ask the more valuable question: “how well can we do this job?”. But even a basic website designed to acquire enquiries and leads from potential customers can benefit from investment in an objective design strategy.
Let’s stick with the example of a basic website that generates leads via a contact form. The objective of the business is to increase their total amount of clients, and the goal we want people to achieve on the website is submitting an enquiry form. Some basic research is needed to identify your users friction points, and you don’t have to be a Webmaster to do this. There’s now a wealth of applications and tools available that can provide real-time data analytics and action tracking, to help you understand things like where your users are clicking, how long they’re staying on pages, the differences in mobile experiences, and where they’re experiencing frustration trying to perform actions.
A little bit of research:
In addition to Quantitative observations mentioned above, Qualitative research should be undertaken as well to observe the user’s actual experiences, and to understand users’ friction in their own words. Questions to answer and experiments to conduct could include:
- Is users’ attention being drawn to key information on your site?
- Is there a clear conversion path to the action you want users to take?
- Does not asking for a contact phone number improve form submissions?
- Can a custom landing page for referrals from social media increase conversions?
Design matters now more than ever:
What we now consider “good” design has come a long way from what we might consider acceptable even a few years back. We now understand that good digital design is more than the sum of its parts; large, dynamic images, responsive design, social integration and other elements that are considered “must-haves” for a business are not an end in themselves. They need to be a part of the wider strategy for your digital assets, working towards the common objective that drives your design decision making.
If you’re unsure whether your business would benefit from an objective-based design strategy, ask yourself an even simpler question: does your business have the potential for any kind of growth? If the answer is yes (and it should be), objective based design can help you.