August 12, 2015
  |   Blog, UX / CX, WEM / WCM

5 Important Tips for Visual Designers of Enterprise Web Sites

Worried about falling short of your best work?
With all the different aspects visual designers need to consider when working on a project—client business objectives, customer needs, brand assets and content strategies into a cohesive design solution—it can be easy to make a mistake. Many designers fall into the trap of beginning a design before understanding the project’s many moving parts, not listening to the client, trying to correct (or out-think) the UX team, refusing to adapt principles to meet challenges, or over-designing every detail of the site—just to name a few.

But I’ve found there are a few simple guidelines that can help ensure success when doing a web site redesign for a large B2B (or any) company.

1. Set an expectation of collaboration

I have found that the most successful designs have come out of a strong collaborative relationship with the client.
Starting a candid and informal conversation about the design iterations can lead to a greater understanding of what they are looking for and save time during the design process.

By keeping the client involved and engaged as the design is evolving, it helps the designer find what is working for them and what isn’t. Spotting the areas that aren’t working early allows you more time to get it right. Plus, this collaboration is a great way for the clients to have a sense of ownership with the design instead of being presented with two concepts and being told to pick one.

Just remember that the design professionals in this process must project professional confidence and expertise, and lead any design conversations that occur. Don’t let yourself get bulldozed by a client wanting to play designer.

2. Trust your user experience architects

Whether you are doing the UX architecture yourself or being handed completed wireframes from your team, make sure you trust the hard work being done in this phase of the project. This is especially important when working with an enterprise B2B client. Most likely, the architects have spent a very long time working with the client, fleshing out their needs and goals. They have gone through many rounds of revisions and approvals in order to meet the client’s expectations for their site’s layout and functionality. It is now your challenge as a designer to stick (in principle) to these wireframes.

There is no quicker way to disappoint a client than showing them a design concept that looks completely different than the wireframes they’ve worked so hard to get right. The wireframes lock down the functionality of the site and, as designers, it’s our role to bring style and form to that function. We can now utilize our knowledge of visual hierarchy, typography, imagery and graphics to deliver our client’s messages and highlight their products and services.

3. Find your moments of creative genius

As strict as we need to be in certain areas of the site, there are moments where you can let your creative genius out of the box so that it can run wild. Find the areas in the site that lend themselves to ‘extended creativity’- areas that enjoy more freedom in regards to established best practices for good functionality. I like to focus on promotional areas: hero images, home page features, product or service callouts, etc. The fact that these areas exist to promote important information means it’s safe to assume that the client would appreciate you using engaging and creative tactics to do so.

These areas lend themselves to pushing colors, the utilization of graphics or photography, accenting depth and dimensionality… anything that will draw the user’s eye and aesthetically complement the content you’re promoting.

4. Utilize existing design materials

Big companies often have a wealth of resources that  designers can repurpose for our design choices, helping them fit right into existing brand standards.

A good place to start is by taking a look at the company’s trade-show materials. One-page handouts, manuals, packaging, and brochures all have design elements that we can adapt for use on the site. Existing patterns, graphics, and textures can be reworked into something new that fits the site’s needs. Don’t be afraid to reach out for the client’s opinion on collateral that best exemplifies their brand. They’ll be excited you’re digging so deep, investing in the brand’s creative vision, and especially thrilled that you’ll be using pre-approved elements. Not only does it show innovation on the designer’s part, but it’s a fun challenge to use those existing materials to create something new.

5. Get structured and detailed feedback

Too often, we’ll get feedback from the client that will be very vague, and it will leave us with a lot more questions than answers. We can take it upon ourselves to make sure we get better feedback than, “it just doesn’t feel like us.”

Ask them specifics and dive deeper with them—again, going back to collaboration. If they aren’t fans of a homepage concept you’ve delivered, go through section by section and find out where the biggest sticking points are. Is it the color choices, the typography, the spacing? Often clients won’t be able to speak ‘designer-ese,’ so we need to help translate for them.
By getting good feedback, we’ll be able to come back to them with something closer to what they are looking for as well as save time between iterations of the designs.

Balancing the functional needs of a big B2B client as well as capturing a look and feel that expresses their brand can be difficult, but with a considered approach and creative solutions like these, it can be done successfully every time!

Ryan Davis
Ryan Davis is a Visual Designer at Blue Acorn iCi, with an eye for marketing and a focus on results-oriented creativity. He also enjoys long walks on the beach and horseback rides and dreams of world peace.
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