After going from a “one-stop-shop” to an interactive-focused agency six months ago, I’ve been immersed into a completely different type of thinking. It’s not that I hadn’t been thinking about responsive design. It flirted with every web project I worked on before joining Imaginuity. But until I was tasked with becoming an expert, at not only the creative components of responsive, but also the strategy and technology behind the what’s and widgets at play, I hadn’t quite had more than a taste of the Kool-Aid.
I have a confession. I’m hooked on the Kool-Aid. It’s really good. It’s spilled into most other activities, now. I think about responsive all the time, and I’m not ashamed of it. For example, my apartment is sectioned into mini responsive ecosystems. I’m an Apple test subject wrapped in a user-case scenario.
The living room:
This is my version of “vegging out”. I watch DVR’d TV. I don’t think I watch anything live anymore, because I get distracted and need to rewind. Most likely, my laptop is open next to me, and I’m half-working, checking/answering mostly AIGA or Art Conspiracy emails or updating Basecamp. I like these best on the laptop, because I can control my email signature better. My phone is nearby, and I’ll answer texts, surf Instagram and check Facebook during commercials. I’ll bring my iPad out if my phone needs to charge. If I’m in the “concept” stage of design, I sketch and draw out ideas in my sketchbook (remember the analog!).
The home office:
Sometimes, I have to do actual design work (meaning, I need to use the mouse and a bigger monitor). When I work at my desk, I plug my laptop into the big Thunderbolt display. The big monitor houses the windows for work, while the laptop holds the windows for communication or research (my Safari browser and messenger). I prop my iPad up and play (not watch) old Hulu reruns or Netflix movies I’ve seen before, or play music off of Spotify. I need the background noise. My phone, at this point is on the charger near the bed, since I can get text messages on my iPad and laptop.
When I go to bed, I play music off Spotify on my phone that ports through my speaker/alarm, while I read a book (a paper one). If I’ve got a particular project I’m working on, I’ll do some research using the iPad, but if I need a brain-break, I’ll use it to watch a movie while it’s propped on the charger. Yes, I’ve got a dual-charging set up near the bed. I know. Apple “completes” me.
Now, the cases above are the laziest of moments. I happen to be involved in a couple of community organizations in the design or marketing capacity, so I’m always working on something. (Can’t stop. Won’t stop.) But, regardless of what I need to work on, I’m compelled to follow these stations when I get home at night: I nest in the living room, when I get home for an hour or two. Sometimes, this is where the night ends. But if I have to work-work (again, only necessary when I need the mouse), I head to my home office, and then I go to bed. I dream of more ways to deploy the Kool-Aid.
So, more recently, I started to wonder, in the crunch of hot deadlines on hot deadlines, if I could be more productive in my daily routine. Now that I work in a primarily digital space, I wanted to figure out if there was a way to capture my ideas outside of a sketchbook and get them into motion more quickly and effectively. Can I work, without having to do it at my desk? When I’m not home or at the office, can I work, without lugging around the laptop? Now that spring is here, can I work outside?
Adobe “completes” me, too.
At the end of March, Scott Belsky, VP Products & Community at Adobe (and making-ideas-happen-guru) posted this article with the lead in, “Mobile is everywhere. It is how we communicate, buy things, date, find our way, and so much more. But it’s not how we create.”
Belsky mentions Adobe’s Creative Cloud Mobile Apps in this article. When I was done reading it, I immediately downloaded the apps on my iPad to test it out. A review of these apps and how they integrated into my desktop workflow was the first intention behind this blog post. But if that’s all this post would be, it’d be too brief of a post. In short, these tools are awesome. I downloaded the tools. I played with them, saved the files from my iPad to the cloud and within an instant, I opened up my laptop, and they were on my desktop. There’s a small learning curve based on me using my fingers vs. a mouse, but the minor hiccups are not even close to the ones I had when I first learned to use desktop design tools back in 1998 (when I started in design), but I have confidence I’ll be able to figure it out. That confidence comes the trust I have in Adobe’s products. I’m excited and certain these are going to be tools I’ll use moving forward, because they’ve always delivered.
But there was an even bigger eye-opener for me in that article. The fact Adobe saw the challenge of making something worthwhile and relevant to me as a designer in the realm of the mobile experience, as an imperative — and to me, that makes mobile an absolute imperative in every other endeavor. The giant of creative production products doesn’t need mobile add-ons to remain profitable. We have to use the desktop tools to execute our ideas. The last few years of the cloud, and how the company has been working and collaborating with third-party creativity apps, and now its own apps mentioned in the aforementioned article – show a company’s dedication to what makes their audience more successful. Not the other way around. And that’s why they are and will remain so relevant to designers.
This gave me a glimpse into how we might approach creative, strategy, content and technology to make the understanding of responsive and everything surrounding it, a better experience for our clients and their audiences from the side of the provider.
Back to my point. If you haven’t seen it coming, the immediate future is here: mobile is an imperative, and not just that luxury your friends in marketing are recommending. So, how can we, in creative, strategy, content and tech help our business-to-business clients make this leap (for some), and adjustment (for the rest), easier, and as effective and intuitive as the masters behind the websites, apps and products that have made our lives easier?
Here’s what you can do in your website/app/branding endeavors to “complete” your customers the way Adobe approached and “completes” the process for the creative community:
- The creative, strategy, content and technology should surround and cater to the natural tendencies of your audience. What is the workflow of the people you want to reach? What do they find intuitive? How do you leverage your findings to produce more effective ways of reaching and engaging them?
- Our job is to drive engagement. Whether it is digital or analog, based on the natural tendencies found above, the purpose of every project should be based on driving engagement, not just satisfying the requirements of the original project. This might be antithetical to staying within scope, but engaging the audience effectively and emphatically, should matter most. Creative, strategy, content and technology teams must make all the recommendations, and educate and guide you to see their importance in the big picture. But you have to stay open to those recommendations being different than what you originally imagined.
- Build an ecosystem of deliverables. The tendency of most of our clients is, “I’m going to Imaginuity for a website or app, and my project is successful if I end the process with the website or app I approached them for, on-time and on-budget.” But that’s not necessarily the most strategic. That mindset might not fulfill the natural tendencies of the audience, because most of the time, you don’t know the audience or their tendencies based on how you want to engage them, until you’re halfway through the discovery stage of our strategy process. Nor does the initial time frame. If you want to appeal to the users on their terms, you have to be there at the right place and the right time. And it takes time to do it right.
- Clean the slate on a regular basis. The most common and human tendency is to do things we’re most comfortable with. But in this field, our tools and processes and those of our clients and audiences are constantly evolving. We’re in the business of driving engagement for our clients and doing so in innovative ways. As an agency, we continually review and assess whether our strategy and content recommendations, creative concepts and the technology that delivers all of the above, allows us, and you, to be as successful as possible. But the innovation that nimble nature can deliver won’t translate if any party is tied to processes or technology that are kept based on comfort alone.
- What ties it all together must be simple. At the end of the day, everything mentioned above: the effort, the tools, the strategy, the creativity, the technology, the meetings, the recommendations and hand shakes – all should support and lead to one thing: the audience and your story. So keep that simple. And always keep your audience in mind, above all else.
If what we create together lets them engage with you on their own terms, you can make them your brand advocates, before they even meet you in person.
And then, there’s a better chance that you’ll have them at “Hello.”