When we jump into a task without thinking about what we’re trying to accomplish, we can end up with solutions to the wrong problem. We can waste energy that would be better spent determining which direction to take.
– Richard Rumelt, Good strategy/Bad strategy
Good design is informed by and serves identified, specific purposes and user needs.
For example, in the world of construction, an architect performs the role of taking the understood intentions and user needs of a new structure, and translating them into design concepts and outcomes.
What’s the basic purpose of the construction? Who’s going to reside there? What kind of design experience will meet those needs? If an architect is disconnected from that information, they can’t do their job. Ever hear of the architect who set out to design and build a “generic” building based on zero briefing, only to be informed 75% of the way through, “Surprise! You’re building… a library! (Oh shame, you’d started designing residential homes…)”. No, of course note.
But when it comes to designing for the web, this kind of disconnect between what’s required and what get’s designed and built, happens all the time.
The basic purpose of a website is to communicate. In the same sense that the basic purpose of buildings is to provide human beings with shelter.
Beyond the basics, things go off in all sorts of interesting directions. For example, the purpose of a building could be residential living, or office space or retail or perhaps public service (each with their own sprawling range of types and possibilities).
And in the same way, websites exist to support lots of different types of communication and interactions between site users and owners.
What do users want to consume, interact with, and achieve? What does the organisation need to communicate and accomplish? Website content strategy focusses on the digital communication needs of an organisation (through the lens of the above two questions), and translates them into web requirements that inform and serve design.
It doesn’t work the other way round. We can’t build a digital communication platform that satisfies user needs and organisation goals, if we don’t understand what it is we need that platform to communicate, to whom, where, when, why, and how.
As owners of websites, if we don’t take the time to identify and align over what we need to communicate, the types of interactions we need to cultivate, and with whom, technical re-designs and re-builds alone are likely to lead to us coming up with solutions to the wrong problem
As Seth Godin says: “Tech isn’t going to fix your problem, communication is.”