Most of the time when people talk about web design, they mean visual design — what does the site, or app, or email look like? Is there movement to it or is it static? Is the imagery compelling enough to make people stick around? Those are all important to consider, of course, but there’s a layer of design that’s less obvious but perhaps even more important, and it starts long before anyone is thinking about colors, fonts, and images.
Foundational design, which in the case of most marketing platforms means thinking about design in terms of components on a page, sets the stage for all of the cool personalization your content team wants to do, all the data and measurement you need to report results back to your CEO, and everything you need to know to measure and improve your digital properties. It’s the way you absolutely have to think if you plan to use some of the more advanced features of a marketing platform. If you don’t lay the foundation for analytics early on, you won’t be able to measure anything meaningful for a year.
So what does it mean to think about design in terms of components, and laying a foundation? Following are three key areas to consider:
- Visual Design – So imagery does play into this, but not from an aesthetic perspective (yet). In the early stages of setting up web pages or email, we’re thinking about visual design in terms of specifications. We make sure we’re using consistent aspect ratios and placing image and copy in a way that allows for very modular layout, for example, which enables A/B testing and personalization down the road. We design for “technical wealth” – in other words, we build with our ideal future website in mind. So even if you’re not ready to pull the trigger on testing or customization now, design your site to accommodate those initiatives in the future.
- Personas and Taxonomy – You also want to design with user attributes in mind, which trickles down to the tag taxonomy governing your site. That way you can say for these personas we’re looking at these attributes, for these attributes we expect these assets, and for these assets we’ll use these tags. With that information in place, then you’ll be able to eventually predict and measure the behavior of particular user types on particular pages. For work we’re currently doing with a best-in-class hotel/casino in Las Vegas integrating email marketing with their Adobe AEM platform, a large and foundational piece of the effort was developing personas and validating that effort against data the hotel retained on guests in their membership program. Based on their current open rates, we’ve quantified what low, average and high engagement means for different channels. Eventually we’ll be able to start varying the degree to which we’re personalizing content for each persona and then measure how much that’s moving the needle.
- Design for the Purchase Cycle – We talk all the time about how these days “responsive design” means design that responds to the user context, not just the device. Putting that approach into practice means designing for the purchase cycle. Again using hotel example, we’ve thought about email campaigns in the context of the hotel stay cycle: What sort of information a prospective customer would want, then someone who’s just booked, someone who is a week out from their stay, someone who is arriving that day, and someone who is on property but still has a day or two left in their trip. Different content, imagery, and triggers are appropriate for different points within this cycle. For our Las Vegas hotel, for example, email campaigns will feature venue images based on what a guest likes to do. So your arrival email might feature your favorite on-site restaurant with a link to reserve a table, a special offer from the spa with a link to book a treatment, and an event that might interest you. It cuts through the noise of Vegas and gets you primed to customize your stay right from the start, winning the hotel more of those coveted on-property dollars.
Customers increasingly expect personalized communication as part of a personalized experience. The best way to pull both off is to design for them long before you send a single email or push a page live.