We have all been in this position, you are enjoying the party, drinking your glass of wine, then the inevitable question comes, “So, what do you do?”. The conversation that follows normally goes something like this;
“Oh, I’m a Product Designer.”
“No, a Digital Product Designer.”
“Aaah, so you design brochures?”
“Not really, we design websites, apps and help businesses.”
“Aaah, like Uber, Facebook?”
“Yep, that kind of stuff.”
It is always hard to put into one sentence what it is that you do, in particular when you are also self-employed (you wear so many hats). But when I think about what we do at Cojo, it goes far beyond just designing products, if we had to give one response to the earlier question it would be this, “we help people build a business”.
So, what does this actually mean in real terms? In a nutshell, we bring together our wealth of product design pedigree alongside valuable experiences from the numerous start-ups we have worked with and apply it to every project.
Assuming we are starting at the beginning of the journey, the component parts would look like this;
1 – Brand and Product Strategy
2 – Digital Product Design
3 – Ongoing Support
Brand and Product Strategy
A great way to kick-off the process is a branding or product strategy workshop. Often clients will come to us with the product vision fairly well defined, however, the brand strategy is often overlooked. The work invested at this point is extremely valuable, a great primer as we move into the visual design phase, and something that anchors the business moving forward. Jeff Bezos said it best…
Consistency of visual brand execution is also very important. Any business will have multiple touch-points with its customers, whether it be your website, social media, application or pitch decks, consistent visual brand execution is vital across all these channels. A solid set of brand guidelines goes a long way to help with this, something we produce as part of every branding project.
These workshops are exercise led, focused on the goal of helping us understand things such as; your user (delivered in the form of user personas), the problem you are solving, business objectives, competitors and even tone of voice (the language you use to communicate with your users/customers). Our role is very much that of the facilitator, we provide an open forum and the tools to help you unlock the answers to some of these questions.
Feature bloat is often an issue at this point too. More features do not necessarily make a better product. The thing to keep in mind is always the core purpose of the product, looked at through the lens of “what is the problem we are solving”. Always focus on benefits over features is another way to look at it.
There are a number of exercises we can go through to help us better understand the product itself. A great one is always User Journey Mapping, great for understanding complex user experiences and something you can apply to any business, not just those in the digital world. A user journey map is a way of presenting a complex journey in one simple overview, very top level, but great to get the over-arching flow down on paper. How do you do it, easy…
1) Select a user persona and the experience to be examined alongside an overall goal or objective.
2) Plan out the main stages of the experience. For example, on-boarding.
3) Next, write down the actions the user needs to take during each of these stages. In the context of on-boarding, this would be things like; adding their email address, setting a password, agreeing to your T&C’s etc.
4) The next step is to understand the users’ emotions, what do we want them to feel at each stage of their journey?
5) The next two steps are potential pains and gains for each stage(negatives and positives), that’s it, you’re finished and ready to start on visual user flows.
I know I have said this already, but the time invested at this stage is vital. You can go into the next steps with much more confidence. The analogy we always use is that of building a house. You ask three Builders to build you a house, but decided to save some money by not bothering with an Architect, the reality is that you would get three houses built (probably in a way that is easiest for the Builder), all different and probably not meeting your requirements. Next time, employ an Architect!
This is the core of what we do at Cojo, the consolidation of the steps that proceeded it. We have covered this process in detail in a previous post, Creating a Solid UX Process, find a link to it here.
By investing the time in defining your brand and product strategy in detail, we have removed much of the assumption that comes with designing new products. UX and UI then become a process of visually representing these strategies and insights.
Often this phase will also require bringing in further specialist skills sets, from Illustration to Motion Graphics. We will help you do this, leaning on a network that literally spans the globe to create an A-Team of talent.
Building a digital product is an ongoing process, the product will evolve, features may change, but the foundation you have created will be a strong one. By getting the right team of experts in place, united around a common goal, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Product design, more specifically UX and UI tend to be very “front-loaded” on a project. But you will always have features in your product backlog, so we like to work with clients on an ongoing basis post MVP, dropping in and out as required, but always embedded with your business to some extent.
Outside of the product piece, we often provide further support on a range of “non-design” related pieces. This could be help with an investment deck and fundraising, advice on legal counsel and IP, recommendations on Marketing Managers and CTO’s, the list goes on. We have worked hard to build a good network of like-minded people around us, and in most cases have experienced some of the challenges that come with running a start-up ourselves, we are always happy to share these experiences and provide support where we can.
In conclusion, are we just Designers? Definitely not, every studio takes a different approach, but we have found that both the client and us get the most value with this approach to building a business. It’s an exciting ride and we love being there for the journey.