One year ago this month I made one of the best business decisions ever—I started working with WordPress business coach Chris Lema. While there isn’t anything unique about that (I mean, he’s *the* WordPress business coach), the way we went about the coaching process was.
Sure, there were weekly sessions where Chris shared his business insights with me. I also spent a lot of time and thought on the homework assignments that helped me to clarify my business goals and be more efficient and professional. But we also threw in an interesting twist on the standard process.
We didn’t keep the coaching process theoretical
Instead, we worked together on a proof-of-concept project. Once we’d gotten far enough into the coaching process to decide where I could bring the most value to clients, we started actually developing the strategic design process I would use on future projects by building a real project together.
Chris helped me decide how effective my brand, user experience and design strategies were by acting as the client in a brand and site refresh for ChrisLema.com. Of course, my process has evolved over the last year, but the basics are still the same. Even though the site was never actually built, I learned a lot about developing and refining my strategic design process.
I learned to focus more on high level strategic thinking. I realized that there was a lot more involved in my strategic design process than generating PSD and CSS files. I also learned a lot about how to focusing on strategy increased the value I brought to my clients, and how to both communicate and monetize that value.
My Design Philosophy
The best design solves a problem. Design without strategy is decoration. Every website, app, product and service needs to do something for someone. I was a journalist before I was a designer, so I always think of a design project like it’s a story. That’s the basis of the three-part Branding First strategic design process Chris helped me develop.
Over the several posts I’ll show you how we developed each phase of the process using the work we did together refreshing Chris’ brand, user interface/experience, and design. These are the steps we’ll cover:
Phase One: Brand Strategy
No matter what you’re selling, you need to start with branding first. Knowing who you’re talking to (and doing enough research to make sure who you *think* you’re talking to vs. who you’re *actually* talking to) sets the tone for everything else you do. I’ll cover audience analysis, persona creation and segmentation, brand goals, brand mission, brand personality, unique value proposition and how I distill all of those components into a compelling brand story.
Phase Two: UX strategy
This phase is about creating an experience for the audience that was defined in the brand strategy phase. The user experience strategy helps organize and prioritize the content in a way that makes it usable and compelling. I’ll share a few sample wireframes that were created to help the client and eventually the developer visualize the brand strategy and story set forth in the previous step.
Phase Three: Design Strategy
If you’ve seen any of my WordCamp talks, you know I’m a huge fan of agile design. I’ll share my process and philosophy for creating a design strategy and style guide to help make the development process more collaborative and iterative. I’ll also show off a PSD comp of the home page so you can see what it would have looked like if the project had gone from intellectual exercise to a completed site. Finally, I’ll share where the UX strategy needed to be tweaked once the actual build of the final comp was underway.
I can’t wait to share it with you!
This was such a fun and challenging coaching exercise. If you’re a potential client I hope it gives you an inside look at how I would apply my strategic design process to your project. If you’re a WordPress designer I hope it inspires you to think about how you approach your own design process. And if you’re a WordPress developer I hope it inspires you to work with designers who make it easier to build awesome stuff. Check back on Thursday for the first installment!