TIA: Our Proven Process
THE INITIAL ASSESSMENT
We’ve come a long way in digital development, with 20+ years of experience and 100’s of client projects completed. But most importantly, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to successfully and efficiently creating custom digital solutions for clients. Each project is an exciting opportunity to test our problem-solving skills to deliver a product that looks great and performs exactly as our client needs it to. And in order to do that, we’ve created a proven process to set up each project for success. This value-driven approach, based on years of experience, is called the Technology Impact Assessment or TIA for short. The TIA is comprised of four phases: Discover, Scope, Implement, Improve. Each phase plays an important part in the success and efficiency of the project.
PHASE 1: DISCOVER
The Discover phase is vital to the success of the entire project. This phase allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the goals and current processes by discussing pain points, brainstorming areas of improvement and reviewing analytics reports for current platforms. After having reviewed all available information and thinking through all logical possibilities for the project, we are able to make a recommendation of the best way to design and build a successful platform, whether it’s a website, mobile app or progressive web application. A large part of the Discover phase is understanding who will be using the final product and ensuring we build it with their intentions in mind. To do that, we create user personas and user journeys.
The first step to developing a successful website or custom digital product is figuring out who it’s intended for – your target audience(s). Who is going to be using the website most, and why? To figure this out, we need the help of the client. They are the experts on their business after all. We gather this information by interviewing the client’s project team, interviewing front-line/customer-facing employees, customer surveys, or a combination of all of these. At the same time we evaluate analytics data and compare it to the qualitative research we have collected. The goal is to obtain the most information possible about their target audience(s): user type, demographics, income levels, tech savviness, goals, primary device used, number of times they use this product/service per year, competing product/services, etc.
We analyze this information and use it to form a User Persona – a fictional representation of our client’s typical or ideal customer or customers. It’s rare for a company to have only one User Persona. When there are multiple personas, we work with our client to prioritize them; we determine which one represents the largest segment of their customers, the second largest, and so on. We rely on and reference these personas as we make design and functional decisions. Once we have this information we can move on to the next stage of the Discover process.
Now that we have target audiences identified, we need to understand how they will interact with the client’s business, product or service. We do that by creating a journey map that highlights touchpoints in the user journey that can be used to track quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs). When we visualize these touchpoints, we can track conversions and make strategic decisions based on their performance.
For example, say we’re building an app for a unique chain of hotels that are located inside the airport. What can we safely assume will be the target customer’s first action on the app after getting off the airplane? Opening the app to find the location of the hotel inside the airport. The touchpoint in this example is checking the location on the app. With this touchpoint in mind, as we develop the app, we must make sure that the location information is prioritized.
UX AND UI DESIGN
Once we have the user personas and user journeys created, we use that information to map out the user experience (UX) design and user interface (UI) design. Our goal with the UX design is to organize and label information on the website or app to ensure users can easily navigate the pages and find what they need in a logical manner. We also work to identify touchpoints and conversion opportunities to ensure visitors take action. The user interface design is similar in that we create a plan to guide users through the digital product, but this portion focuses on using visual and interactive elements to keep users engaged. Our lead designer will create a style tile to showcase the color palette, typography treatments, and icon and button elements.
We also use the user journeys and personas to shape our content strategy. By referencing the UX and UI designs and decisions we are able to prioritize content into must have, nice to have and unnecessary. This helps to optimize the navigation structure so users can easily find what they are looking for. We also analyze the content and create a list of keywords and key phrases that should be included in page content, titles and meta descriptions to optimize for SEO.
Once we have the initial content audit complete, we work with the client to confirm the navigation structure and updates to each page. This content-first approach ensures each page on the website or app has a purpose and provides valuable information to the user. Once the content is approved by the client, our Designer will use that content as a framework to design the templates for each page, and decide which pages should have custom templates to best showcase the content. The goal is to improve engagement, user retention and conversion of the product by ensuring the content and design complement one another.
PHASE 2: SCOPE
The Scope phase is where we put all of our findings from the Discover phase into a detailed development plan. We start by creating a comprehensive ‘wish list’ of features – everything you could possibly want in the final product. From there, we prioritize that list based on expected impact and required effort to make sure we start with the features that will have the greatest impact. This is why we define our approach as ‘value-driven.’ By prioritizing the most important features, we eliminate unnecessary, invaluable, distracting components from the project and quickly deliver the features that matter the most. The lower priority features on the ‘wish list’ will be implemented in later phases of the product depending on their shift in priority.
The Technical Scope contains our recommendations for the best way to implement the features of the website or app, whether it’s a custom development or a third-party vendor platform. These recommendations are the product of the research and information gathered during the Discover phase, and will guide the rest of the project.
PHASE 3: IMPLEMENT
The third phase of the process is when the product design and development become a reality. Our development team will build out the product to be a functioning website or app. Based on the scale of the project, we determine the frequency for check-in calls to make sure the client is always aware of the progress and what will be worked on next.
PHASE 4: IMPROVE
Our value-driven approach to development means the project isn’t over after launch. Once the most important features have been completed, we move onto the next features listed on the ‘wish list’ created during the Scope phase. This design and development model ensures we are always taking advantage of opportunities to improve the website or app. We will continually identify issues and areas of improvement, set goals and review customer data collected on the website or app and employee feedback about the new features. This keeps the product fresh and optimized for your business and your customers.
OUR PROVEN PROCESS
We’ve created a lot of custom digital solutions over the years, and collected a lot of experience along the way. Each project helped us identify what made for a successful final product and aspects of the process that had room for improvement. Through all of those learnings we created this value-driven approach that has proven to be an effective process for us and our clients.