Sometimes businesses put all of their marketing budget into design. And you know, I can see why they’d think that’s the way to go – design IS super important…
But so is copy.
And they both need to be invested in to create lasting impressions, good customer experiences (CX), and bring in the dollars.
There’s a massive focus on design thinking and user experience (UX) at the moment (and with good reason!). Businesses are realising that creating an epic CX that surprises and delights is the way to win new customers and create loyal fans.
The way to do that is to leverage the power of great design and killer copy.
You see, design supports and promotes your brand, while copy does the selling for you. And together? Well, it means the customer doesn’t notice the design at all. (And that’s a very good thing / what good UX does).
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some pretty incredible designers over the years, but my mate Craig from Craig Gillam Creative is the bee’s knees.
We’ve worked in-house together and also on a few consulting gigs: creating apps and branding for fintech and tech companies that utilise beautiful, intuitive design and sharp, persuasive microcopy.
Given the interest in design thinking and UX-focused interfaces popping up all over the interwebs, I thought it would be good to get an experienced UX designer’s take on what’s coming up in the world of UX design and working with a copywriter (I totally didn’t pay him to write this by the way haha!):
LL: How long have you been a designer?
CG: From as early as I can remember I was interested in colour, type, art, photography, advertising, architecture and being creative in general. But it wasn’t until I was finishing high school that I became aware of ‘Graphic Design’. The very next year I started studying in the field of design and advertising and fell into the vortex… haha. 12 years later and I find myself specialising in ‘branding’ and ‘user/digital experience’, but still very much enjoying most things design and art related.
LL: What got you into UX design?
CG: I started designing websites as a natural extension of brand identity but it wasn’t until I was working as a brand designer for an Aussie fintech company, when a mentor observed my [what I know now as] human-centred design thinking and an eye for detail. He thought it would be a great asset to the company’s user experience. I was very grateful for the opportunity and up-skilling that he, and others there, offered. It really pushed my creativity and thinking in a fresh direction.
LL: What’s been your favourite project so far?
CG: I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some great people on great projects, but it’d have be one I’m currently still working on. It’s the brand and user experience roll-out for a start-up looking to change the way people give to charitable causes. It’s called ‘little Phil’ — short for ‘little Philanthropist’, a name which a friend and I landed on while working in Barcelona on the project together (yep that’s another reason it’s been a great project to work on). More to come soon, but I can’t wait until we launch. You can see a snippet here: www.littlephil.com.au
LL: What’s your favourite part of the UX process?
CG: I really enjoy collecting initial ideas and conceptualising what the experience will aim to achieve and the look and feel it will convey. A lot of the time I’ve started with the client’s brand creation, so it’s nice to transition through to the user experience. I also find the mind mapping and information architecture interesting (everything the experience will cover and where it will all sit.) Also the final trimmings that bring the UI/UX together… and then there’s no better feeling than launching and seeing people interact with your work.
LL: And what’s the most challenging?
CG: I find the most challenging part of the UX process is covering all basis. It’s about making sure everyone engaging with the app gets what they need or where they need to go, directly and hopefully with a little enjoyment. It’s known as user stories or use cases and I find running all variables is difficult, yet rewarding once it’s been nailed.
Businesses who want to succeed – especially those developing apps or responsive websites – stand the best chance of survival by locking in a design and copy team that know how to work together.
It’s generally not enough to have them work in silos, never collaborating or discussing the project… or worse, having them compete for creative ownership.
LL: Why do you think good marketing utilises both design and words?
CG: Name a more iconic duo. Go on, I’ll wait. In marketing, and UX in particular, beautifully crafted words and brand language takes the user on a guided journey.
Imagine if you will a big white room. Now to replicate all areas of your app — add to this room some doors, corridors and stairs leading off in different directions. You’re there for a reason, but you have no idea what to do next.
Add a lick of paint, maybe it’s wallpaper, a front desk with some brand signage and big sunlit windows with leafy plants (if you have the budget. This is your branding and UI).
Now you know where you are, but you have no language to understand where you’re going or what you’re meant to do.
Now add a welcome note, great signage and a friendly receptionist at the front desk to help you with anything you need. This is your copy.
How well-crafted the rooms, the corridors, doors and stairs are is your UX and when it’s all done right, you’ll get to where you need to be in a simple and enjoyable way, ready and happy to come back when you need to.
LL: What challenges do you face (if any) working with other creatives to bring a project to life?
CG: A difference of opinion is normally the biggest challenge, but it’s a healthy one. It can be hard to compromise sometimes, if I genuinely believe in something, though I’ve found it’s about selecting your battles (what really matters) and coming to a conclusion that most benefits the client and their users.
LL: What are good qualities you look for in a copywriter that makes working with them easier?
CG: Good copywriters, like you Laura, humanise language into sharp, easy to read words that give you a smile. Also, having an easy-going and friendly personality, but with confidence and assertiveness will help anyone in any profession.
LL: What do you think the future holds for tech / digital businesses who want to stand out?
CG: Tech and digital businesses must look to empower their users and bring enjoyment to their UX. With everyone becoming smarter and more aligned in UX principles, it will be the apps and experiences that provide real value and delight that will keep them coming back. Delighting your customers can be done through micro interactions, new and easier ways of doing things or even going over and above and developing something people have never seen. (Think Apple launching the iPhone X with facial recognition and using this to develop Augmented Emojis [Animojis].)
LL: Any interface design trends we should look out for?
CG: Not so much a trend as such, but as technology progresses we’ll see more automated bots, like chatbots, and they’ll become more human-like. I also think augmentation is an exciting space to watch as that gets utilised more in UI and UX. And lastly, I think the development of micro interactions will become particularly important as apps and experiences look to stand-out and offer difference.
LL: And finally – what are three things business owners can do right now to improve usability of their app or site?
CG: It’s all about the end users… it sounds simple, but it’s often brushed off. Think about how they’ll want to use your product or service and how it will benefit them the most.
Aim for user empowerment. Once you’ve achieved this, craft a simple and almost invisible UI that gets the user to this place.
And once that’s done, give the user reasons to come back. Make it exciting and make it sticky (and make it addictive in a healthy way). It’s a lot to take in, but creating a multi-layered yet simple experience will help your business venture’s longevity.
So – there you have it, folks.
The future of UX design for digital and tech businesses lies in finding out what the customers want… before they’ve even realised it themselves.
A great brand experience needs both design AND copy to make the user feel connected, educated and inspired to take action.
But that’s the easy part – finding a team of copywriter and designer who work together collaboratively to give you the best end product is a litttttle harder.
Pssst – in case you want to make some quick fixes to the UX of your site I’ve got a handy post with 5 ways you can do it here.
Want to know more about my mate Craig?
Craig Gilliam is a multifaceted designer with over 10 years’ experience across a broad range of design disciplines, specialising in branding and user experience.
You can see more here: craiggillam.com
And give him a follow here: instagram.com/craiggillam