Practical design advice

Here’s some really useful tips on how to design communication or adapt to the new way of selling/marketing products. They’re based on my articles from 2008, on this website.

Design to, or with, the fan club
Include the customer in product development – the prize is avoiding features that consumers doesn’t want, and instead focusing on features which they crave or even the invention of completely new products and features. The more You listen to consumers, the better a product can be delivered, bad reviews are avoided and you gain great sympathy. Note however that it’s important which customers you listen to and how you do it: they have a different agenda than You do, and the amateurusers have different agendas and needs than the professionalusers.

Make procedural products
Build in a kind of tools, make products that are frames for creativity or allow lots of freedom. The higher on “Maslows’ for businesses” the product is, the more value and life span it will have. One of the most procedural produts that exist is the pencil.

Connect to many networks
Physical networks can be plugs/sockets or modability: they allow the consumer to adjust the product’s function, expand it’s connections or work in alternative ways. Social networks can be conveying contact to other consumers or secondarily related groups or networks. Knowledge networks can be a library of schematics, links to relevant encyclopedia resources, or conveying consumers tips on modification.

Hire the The CoCreative Consumer
Arrange ”tweak” contests and encourage the alternative uses of Your products, or accept suggestions for new products  and reward the good ones. The idea is to search for opportunities and future employees  it’s not a celebration of Your business or Your products, it’s a celebration of the consumer/participants and their creativity. The people that “mod” are often long time customers or in related ways interested in Your field , and furthermore technical competent and creative: it’s amongst these that the best of Your future employees are to be found. Observe the creativity in the destruction and the construction in the deconstruction  and remember the 80/20 rule: the largest portion of feedback comes from a small group of your customers.

Communicate intimately / intensely with your core target group
If You only have one target audience  – though this is rare – You should communicate focused to it. Know it intimately, communicate to, and with, it as directly as possible, but in as many ways and through as many media as possible. If You have several target audiences, You should create an information tunnel for each of them.

Consumers are driven by their intentions, not by their demographic
Target audiences don’t think of themsel­ves as a socio- or demographically divided segment  but strive to schieve certain things, have aspirations and goals. They are intention oriented: either curious towards a certain product or message, seriously interested, or even negative. Either they seek inspiration, are searching for something specific or desire to offer so­mething. Either they have no knowledge of Your business, a bit of knowledge of Your busi­ness but none of You, or maybe they have an intimate knowledge of You and Your business. Create Your information tunnels accordingly.

 

To the left is a diagram of how a certain information theoretically should be customized towards the user.
To the right is practical examples of how a message can be differentiated towards different user groups.

Information should be organized according to the Emotional Funnel
First the most elementary information, later the thorough in­formation. First the exciting introduction, later the important details. First evoke emotions, then rationalize.

To the left is a diagram of how a certain information theoretically should be customized towards the user.
To the right is practical examples of how a message can be differentiated towards different user groups.

Only 4 options at a time
Focused information presents only four options at a time – few people can cope with more than that.

Speak the consumer’s language
Avoid transmitter focus and profession narcis­sism, but consider the users needs. Transmitters often commit this mistake, because they live in a bubble filled with certain terms, a bubble that centers on themselves and their goals and needs.

Avoid featureism
It can confuse more than impress. You can easily appear interesting without sensebombarding Your recipient. Though the useage of features is a matter of jud­gement in each case, it’s important to consider their neccessity  this PDF may itself be accused of having too many features! The important thing is whether you use them, or avoid using them, consciously.

Search fields and FAQS are stop gaps and temporary solutions
In an ideal webdesign, everything can be found with 4 clicks or less.