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How to Conduct a Design Audit to Strengthen your Brand

By | design, user experience, user interface | No Comments

A design audit might sound a little intimidating, after all, the word audit doesn’t exactly scream fun. But, it’s actually a very beneficial exercise. A design audit is merely an analysis of the design elements in use by a company. Its main purpose is to make sure that the branding is consistent among all channels and outlets. When I say branding I do mostly mean visual design elements, however, branding is also the written and verbal communication as well as the user experience. A good design audit will also take those into consideration, to make sure it’s consistent as well. The truth is that a design audit is a good thing, it means a company has grown a lot and now simply needs to re-align its design efforts. Briefly, let’s discuss the benefits of design audit for companies and then let’s get right into how to conduct one.

Benefits of a design audit

No matter if your company is tiny or huge, a design audit might be in order if your company is growing and evolving. It’s a great idea because it will help you manage your visual design material and written message. In turn, this will lead to a well-defined identity and branding.

 

 

When inconsistencies in both visual style and message start shining through, a brand is weakened. It no longer has a solid foundation, and it starts diverging into different directions. Consistency is key, and by conducting an audit you are creating a chance to once again strengthen the brand. Think of a design audit as an opportunity to check the quality of the designs, the products, and the user experience.

The visual branding audit

First thing first, it’s time to gather all the design assets. And I am serious when I say all of it. Gather all the ads, the social media posts, the website and its desktop and mobile versions, the mobile apps, the letterheads and the business cards. Include lead magnets, content upgrades, master classes or webinar slides. Include any pitch decks too. Anything that is is a touchpoint for a customer. Everything.

What you want to do here is study the different collaterals to notice patterns and their deviations. For example, you may notice that the social media ads are using the wrong logo file, or the quality of the graphics is just not what it needs to be. You may notice that you have many functionally similar sections throughout your website, but they are all designed differently.

Now you know to provide the people who run the Twitter and Facebook ads with the correct logo file and render final ad images in higher quality. You also now know that you will need to sit down and make sure that the footer is the same on every page, or that the custom made graphics for Leadpages use the correct brand colours.

 

 

Additionally, this might give you ideas on how you and the design team might want to update the branding going forward. Maybe you have too many or too few colours to perfectly depict the vibe your company is going for.

This is honestly as simple as taking a good look at all the visual design assets, looking for deviations and doing something about it. Yet, it yields so much information.

Tone, voice, and message

While you’re taking a look at all the visual stuff, also consider the content itself. In the previous example, the only thing I didn’t mention was audio/radio ads because it’s the only thing that inherently doesn’t automatically come with a visual aspect too like would a video.

Once again, take a look at the actual content. Read everything, listen to everything. Again notice what patterns you see, or should see but don’t. Just like with the visuals, you’re looking out to make sure that the tone, voice, and message is correct and consistent and making notes on where it deviates.

 

 

Pay attention to what no longer sounds like the company or any evolving patterns that just don’t seem right fit anymore. Once again, you will also naturally be realizing that maybe the company needs to have a more authoritative voice, be more playful, or use a softer vocabulary. Maybe you and your team will also come to a realization on how to improve the overall tone, voice, and message of the company to be even stronger, better and relevant to the target audience.

Heuristics for usability and accessibility

Another thing a good design audit will include is a heuristic evaluation. This one focuses on the usability and accessibility of a website or app. Usability and accessibility are crucial for a good user experience. Those also help make your company and brand shine. Usability problems will affect people’s perception of your company too. They can be something simple, like a broken link, or complicated, like a confusing online order form. Accessibility problems, like missing alt tags, or low contrast between text and background, also mater.

Nielsen created a thorough heuristic evaluation guide back in 1994 that is still popular and reliable today. They defined 10 heuristics to checkup:

  • Visibility of system status
    • Provide feedback to the user on where are they, what is going on, what they need to do next, where “next” is and so on
  • Match between system and the real world
    • Always use natural flowing language, speak the way your target audience does, not like a computer
  • User control and freedom
    • Provide an easy ability to undo an action or to redo it
  • Consistency and standards
    • Always be consistent
  • Error prevention
    • Make it as easy and obvious as possible for a user to avoid or prevent an error
  • Recognition rather than recall
    • Make the life of the user easy by not making them have to think; your job is to make their experience with you seamless, not cumbersome
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use
    • Make sure that the experience can be appropriate for novice and power users
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design
    • Every design element has to have a clear purpose; keep things as simple as possible
  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
    • Use plain English error messages as if you’re speaking to a friend; explain what went wrong and the exact solution to fix the error
  • Help and documentation
    • Help and documentation should be easily accessible and understandable

Next, you go through your website, web app, or mobile app, and little by little make note where the experience falls shorts of these heuristics.

For the best possible results of a heuristic evaluation, it’s best to have many people objectively evaluate your designs. Aim to get at least 10.

Utilize a design system

You can tie all of this together into a design system. Once you’re done with the audit, regroup. Figure out what needs to go, what stays and what needs to be updated. When it comes to the visual design and brand messaging, consider implementing a design system. We’ve written a couple great pieces on how to build a design system to scale and what best to include in one. Keeping your styles in a design system will ensure ongoing consistency so that you don’t have to do a design audit every few months.

Conclusion

As you can see, a design audit can be extremely helpful! It will boost consistency for your company’s branding and improve the user experience. Don’t forget, the truth is that a design audit means that your company and brand are growing but just got a little out of hand. Nothing to worry about, you now know what you must do in order to tighten up your brand’s visuals and message.

Have you done a design audit before? Did you find it helpful for your company? Share any tips you might have for us in the comments!

Things To Remember When Designing For Augmented Reality

By | AR, design, user experience, user interface | No Comments

Augmented Reality (AR) is changing how we interact with the world around us. Over the past several years, AR technology established a strong foundation in media, marketing, education, games and many other industries. This happened because computing hardware has finally advanced to the point where it’s become capable for AR platform. Today, AR prompting many brands to explore this strange new world for the first time.

What is AR?

AR technology incorporates real-time inputs from the existing world to create an output that combines both real-world data and some computer-generated elements which are based on those real-world inputs.

The concept of AR is not a new one. The term was first introduced in 1992 by researcher Tom Caudell to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality. And AR isn’t rare. A frequently overlooked, yet widespread example of AR is the automobile parking assistance system.

Rear parking assist with the rear-facing camera.
Rear parking assist with the rear-facing camera. The vehicle’s computer calculates the vehicle’s distance from surrounding obstacles, and, based on the steering wheel’s position, determines the vehicle’s trajectory.

However, only after popular apps PokemonGO and SnapChat were released and adopted by users the term “augmented reality” got into the spotlight.

PokemonGo.
PokemonGo

How AR Will Change Brand Experiences

There is a distinct advantage for AR to be accepted sooner and on a wider basis than VR, particularly in the commercial sector. While Virtual Reality (VR) gets a lot of talk because of how cool this technology for entertainment, AR is going to truly impact the way we work and live. AR forecasted to be a $150 billion dollar industry by 2020.

[Tweet “AR creates an opportunity for brands to build new digital pathways to tell stories and engage with users”] in a way that’s never before been possible. Here are 3 ways that businesses will be able exploit AR and its associated technologies in the near future.

Guidance

Even the most capable professional can run into situations where they need a helping hand from someone, and it’s here that AR technology could come in handy. For example, AR app makes it possible for doctors to navigate the innards of the patient to effectively and efficiently complete the surgery.

The surgeons used the augmented reality app through an iPad
The surgeons used the augmented reality app through an iPad

Design Visualization

In terms of design visualisation, AR is creating some breathtaking possibilities. It merges the virtual and the real world — adding virtual overlays directly into the view of headset-wearers, or inserting these digital add-ons into video captured on a phone screen. As AR technologies become more refined, users will be able to preview their designs and experiences in real-world spaces. One such example is this spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen, in which virtual layouts of a car interior are projected onto a full-size model of a car dashboard.

spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen
Spatial AR setup used by Volkswagen

Training and Education

When it comes to training and education, AR has a lot of promise. Unlike a real-world training scenario, a trainee can play through an AR situation as many times as they need to understand a concept or a procedure. This will create deeper learning opportunities where students are in the flow of learning.

Training using AR
Image credit: Columbia University

How to Design For AR?

Since there are no established UX best practices for AR yet, I’d like to share my own personal approach to UX in AR apps.

1. AR use-case needs to be evaluated

The concept of “measure twice, cut once” is especially important in building AR apps. Before diving in, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to pursue this type of medium and what outcome would you like to have. Keep in mind following moments:

  • AR experiences are powerful, but they should tie back to clear business objectives. AR shouldn’t be added on top of a planned app just because it’s trendy technology — that’s almost a sure way to create a poor UX. Rather, the desired functionality needs to be evaluated to fit with the experience that the AR display medium can offer.
  • If you’re going to design an AR experience, you should invest heavily in user research. Spend some time really getting your target audience and not just how that you would perform a specific task using a software, get to know how they’ll do something in real-world without any kind of devices.

2. Consider the environment in which the product will be used

Since AR apps are grounded in reality, the environment affects AR design significantly. For example, in private environment (home, work) you can count on long user sessions and complex interaction model – the whole body can be involved in the interaction, as well as specific devices (such as head mounted display) can be used for manipulation (see Microsoft Hololens example below).
Microsoft Hololens
But in public environments (e.g. outdoors), it’s important to focus on short user sessions. Because regardless of how much people might enjoy AR experience, they won’t want to walk around with their hands up, holding a device for an extended period of time.

AR using iPad
Thus, when designing augmented reality apps, you first need to research environmental conditions in which the service will be used and how it effects on the user:

  • Identify interaction scenarios upfront even before specifying technical requirements for the project.
  • Collect all the details of the physical environment to be augmented.The more environmental conditions you’ll test before building a product, the better.

3. Make the interaction with AR app simple

In order for AR to be usable, it must be quick and simple. AR is really about designing layers of added value that reduce the time to complete simple tasks. Keep in mind that people are seeking out experiences, not technologies and they’ll technology that isn’t friendly to use. No one will use AR apps or tools if they take just as long or longer than the conventional way of doing something. Thus, when design your AR solution I recommend the following approach:
Go to the context of the area that you’re going to be performing the task (e.g. a specific room, a real-world device, etc)
Think through the each step that you use to accomplish the task.
Record each of those steps down
This information will help you conduct a task analysis. This analysis will help you make things more natural for the users.

Google Translate and AR
Google Translate app uses the phone’s built-in camera to translates the captured text into another language. This example perfectly illustrates the value that AR technology can provide.

Conclusion

AR has seen massive success in recent years and as more technologies take advantage of this growing trend, AR will grow to encompass much more than it does now. The most important things to consider when designing AR experience is users’ goals and contexts of use. AR apps should be easy to use and shouldn’t hinder users.