The mind of a designer isn’t always pretty

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 8.59.26 AM.png

The mind of a designer isn’t always pretty

A peek into my thought process, however far fetched it may seem.

Created using a “design prompt generator”

Quick background before I dive into my exercise

I was having one of those particularly groggy days, the kind of day where it felt like my brain only wanted to operate in “Saturday mode” but I needed a quick dose of creativity. I came across this cool website that generates design prompts for whiteboard exercises. I decided to forgo the whiteboard and attempt to capture my thought process in writing.

What follows is my unedited “steam of consciousness”Questions I’d normally ask and steps I‘d take to solve a “unique problem”. It's also a pretty “wacky” design prompt that ended up being fun to think through.

I allowed myself 20 minutes for this “thought exercise” and definitely left some territory uncovered.

The prompt that was randomly generated:

Design: The homepage of a marketing site
For: A music platform that generates new hits by splicing together top 40 hits
To Help: Scientists in the lab

The steps I took to complete exercise were the following:
1. Receive clarification on the prompt

2. Make quick decisions

3. Identify the audiences

4. Decide on key journeys

5. Define a messaging strategy

6. Outline a high-level marketing strategy

7. Design homepage elements

1. Receive clarification on the prompt

After a prompt like that, I’d ask some clarifying questions to the stakeholder or product owner. All of these questions need to be addressed before the design is thought about:

- How big of a budget does the music platform have?

- Is the marketing site advertising driven?

- How much other advertising does the music platform do? (For example if this “music platform” was Spotify I’d consider past television spots, radio, media, and social advertising). This would help us understand how familiar a consumer is to the product.

- Is the user hearing about the platform for the first time?

- How did the user end up on this page in the first place? Was it a link on social media, targeted email campaign, SEO Google Search result? Knowing this will help me understand the customer's frame of mind.

- Does the music platform target other customer segments as well is it positioned as the “one stop solution” for every industry or is it scientific industry related?

2. Quick decisions I made

Thoughts and decisions (I allowed myself liberty on) for purpose of this exercise:

“How will music help scientists in the lab” I wondered. I randomly guessed three potential scenarios and for the sake of time I narrowed it down to one:

In real life, these scenarios would be defined by the goals of the product and business teams.

  1. Could a music platform help scientists in a lab because it increases productivity?

  2. Would a music platform help scientists in a lab by serving as the background noise to their jobs?

  3. Can a music platform help scientists in a lab by aiding in scientific research?

I decided to focus on the third assumption dealing with scientific research. I completely made this up to better support the chosen scenario:

“Scientists at UCLA are researching a link between Alzheimer's memory recollection and music played from a specific era or time in that person's life. Upon further investigation, they have uncovered that mixing two popular songs from two different era’s of a participants life can further support memory care.”

A specific example:
Playing a song that was popular around the time a participant was married spliced with a hit song from their childhood helps aid in the recollection of a specific question, such as: “Which one of your childhood friends did you marry?”


3. Audience Identification

I chose two different audiences that would benefit and created a quick audience profile for each group.

Audience profiles

Audience member 1: A Scientist in a lab 
Audience member 2: Head of facilities (aka the financial decision maker)

Sample audience summary for #1 “Scientist in the lab” :

  1. Cares deeply about the research they perform

  2. Personal Background: Has a personal vested interest in memory care after losing a close family member

  3. Background: Has spent several years testing different hypothesis’ on helping late stage Alzheimers patients feel like “themselves’ again

  4. Tech proficiency: Very High. Runs multiple database programs simultaneously. Lab Data Management & Analysis Software, Enterprise-Level Lab Informatics. Assesses the need for Data Analysis and Storage Solutions.

  5. Chain of command: Middle, two removed. Has a big say in what software solutions aid in research and development but not in a position to make the final purchasing decision

  6. Mindset: Research-driven. Facts orientated, no BS

  7. Wants: To see results by proving a hypothesis and having its outcome become widely adopted

Sample audience summary for #2 “Head of facilities” (aka financial decision maker):

  1. Thinks: in terms of numbers and outcome

  2. Answers to: shareholders, CFO

  3. Wants to know: how purchasing this software will help procure grants and donations within the scientific community

  4. In charge of: Lab automation, decision making, relationship management with grant donors

  5. They might ask: What is the ROI of investing in the software?

  6. They might ask: Will it help secure more grants?

  7. Wants: Higher visibility within the scientific community

  8. Wants: To make sure grants money is allocated properly

  9. Tech proficiency: Medium. Runs accounting software and generates customized reports bi-weekly. Comfortable with the facility's intranet system. In charge of tracking DocuSign contracts with equipment vendors. Manages departments CRM as an admin. Enjoys playing Fortnite in his spare time.

Of course in real life, this audience data will not be made up, but I did have fun inventing these profiles on the fly.

The more information about the target market that is provided upfront, the easier it will be to come up with messaging and marketing strategy later, which will go hand in hand with coming up with page design and layout.

6. Marketing Strategy

Next was defining the software company’s “marketing strategy”

  • Two audience profiles will be targeted.

  • Need to decide if marketing automation is considered and what platform will drive this. This will make an impact on the design constraints.

  • Provide an easy way to access research and case studies.

  • Exclusive content for members.

  • Don’t focus solely on social proof, but allow potential customers to see how the software has helped other scientists

  • Decide on measurable KPIs

  • Run Analytics software to determine if goals are being met

7. The design comes to life


A design begins to emerge

Once an audience is identified + goals of the audience are understood+ marketing strategy is compelte+ messaging is thought out+ requirements and constraints are put into place for the design.

In “real life” most of these things will be provided by different business units, but you might have to jump in and fill in the gaps when needed.

For example: If messaging to the scientists, the potential design elements would be:

Top Navigation: Navigation will be designed with the music companies business needs in mind. A few considerations when designing navigation:

- Is this landing page standalone, or a series of landing pages for other products?

- Are they selling other software?

- Do they want to provide a comprehensive “about” page?

- Do they want to launch a software tour?

- Will they be providing a “portal” for customers to log into?

- If yes — there will need to be a “registration/login” link.

- Is there a need for a FAQ section?

- How about support —(do they want to offer ongoing support? Support by pricing tier?)

  • If ad-supported: Will potentially need a banner on top

  • Under navigation: Informative hero image (a large image that has become standard on most marketing sites) with a clear value proposition. This hero image can contain “one message” or contain multiple messages in accordance with the companies goals. 
    One example of this is a “carousel” or “image slider” that could contain multiple CTA’s (Call to action buttons to register, sign up for more information, purchase now).

  • Features overview module: This will highlight the software benefits and usually includes 3–5 top features (these can be personalized depending on whos viewing it as well).

  • A series of articles, blog posts and scientific journal entries that will help prove the research behind the companies claims

  • If ad-supported — will potentially need clearly labeled native advertising articles

  • Right-hand column: Lead capture form 
    (functionality) this column could stay “sticky” and adhere to the page while the rest of the content scrolls

  • If ad-supported - The right-hand column might be needed for ad space. Other options: 
    - Is there a more elegant solution for lead generation? 
    - Is this a proper use case for a chatbot? 
    - Would a call to action be effective in the header?

  • Footer to contain links to appropriate channels & provide organic social proof plus repetition of top links, access to the FAQ, privacy policy and copyright information will all round up the design of the page.

It goes without saying the visual designs will be polished with a series of reviews, feedback sessions and iterations with brand managers, stakeholders, product owners, strategists, copywriters, and probably an overly opinionated Art Director (who has no context to the actual goals but has a “grand vision”).

Thank you

You made it all the way through and stuck with me, I appreciate that! I may continue this idea as a series of generated design prompts and the thinking behind them. I will update this section accordingly.