In my previous article, I explored the UX design approach and emphasized the importance of redefining the briefing by a UX designer. However, in practical business scenarios, it’s not always feasible to involve a UX designer from the outset of a project due to budget constraints and resource limitations. Often, project ideas are sparked by internal discussions within a company, interactions with customers, or everyday observations, and typically, a UX designer is not present during these initial stages.

In this post, I will discuss strategies for initiating a project even when a UX designer is not available. These guidelines will help ensure that your project remains user-focused and adheres to UX principles, setting a strong foundation for when a UX professional can later be brought on board.

sticky notes on paper document beside pens and box

Before diving into UX design, various preparatory steps must be taken, many of which do not require the immediate involvement of a UX designer. This groundwork is crucial to ensure that the project is well-aligned with user-centered design principles from the outset, setting the stage for more specialized contributions as the project progresses.

Consider Your Branding First

When embarking on UX design, it’s crucial to consider the relationship with your brand. A significant disparity between the perception of your business and the user experience provided by your products or services can lead to branding failures and difficulty engaging users.

Take Airbnb as an example. They revolutionized the travel experience, but imagine if their homepage had retained a corporate, austere appearance? Prior to their 2014 rebranding, Airbnb’s homepage resembled a typical travel booking site with a very different logo. However, post-rebrand, they launched a new offering called “Experience,” successfully transmitting entirely new value through various events.

Apple serves as another clear illustration. If Apple’s brand image resembled that of Microsoft or Google, how would their products differ? Would we have the iPhone as we know it today? These examples underscore that the brand’s essence is integral to the practice of UX design.

For emerging companies looking to implement UX design, developing the brand concurrently is essential. Conversely, for established companies, it is vital to consider the existing brand and how the products and services are positioned before examining how UX can enhance this relationship. This strategic alignment ensures that UX design not only complements but also amplifies the brand’s core values and market presence.

Before its brand renewal, Airbnb had not significantly incorporated the concept of UX into its strategy

Navigating UX Design: The Impact of Brand Guidelines

The existence of brand guidelines can significantly influence how a UX design project progresses. Brand guidelines define the branding elements clearly, and their presence (or absence) often marks a pivotal point in the development of a UX project.

While I won’t delve into the specifics of brand guidelines here, it is crucial to highlight three essential elements in UX design practice: brand value, brand mission, and mood board (which encapsulates the brand’s worldview). These components are foundational in ensuring that the brand’s essence is effectively communicated through UX design.

Consider the example of IKEA, a brand that embodies eight key values, including cost-consciousness. Imagine if IKEA were to disregard this value and instead sell high-cost furniture with exceptional UX. Such a move would likely misalign with the brand’s established values and could confuse or alienate customers. The relationship between a brand and the value and image it conveys to consumers through its products and services is deeply intertwined. Ignoring the intrinsic link between brand concepts and product/services not only jeopardizes sustainable business operations but also undermines the effectiveness of UX design.

When brand guidelines are in place, the first step in a UX design project should be to ensure that the brand values are reflected in all activities and products, followed by the creation of a UX design brief that aligns with these values. If no brand guidelines exist, the UX design process becomes an opportunity to define and clarify the value that the product or service provides, shaping the brand’s identity in a way that supports business objectives.

How did an energy drink company transform into a global powerhouse with such a diverse UX presence? And why haven’t other companies achieved the same level of success? The answer seems clear.

The Role of Management in Branding and UX Design

There’s a common misconception that branding is a practice reserved for large, consumer-facing companies like apparel and sports brands such as Gucci and Nike, or automotive and airline giants such as Toyota and JAL. However, this notion is fundamentally flawed.

Branding is crucial regardless of a company’s size or whether it operates in a B2B or B2C sector. Every business needs to have a clear strategy about how to communicate its value to others and what exactly should be conveyed. This consideration is critical when developing elements such as company logos or presentation materials, where the focus is on how these representations will be perceived.

Unfortunately, many small and B2B companies, often constrained by budget limitations, neglect branding. This oversight can lead to significant challenges when these companies undertake UX design projects, frequently resulting in failure. I have witnessed many such cases firsthand.

So, how can these failures be avoided? Success largely depends on the extent to which management understands the importance of branding in product and service development.

Branding and UX design don’t necessarily require a large budget to be effective. What’s crucial is for management to acknowledge the comprehensive planning needed in a UX design project. Recognizing this, they must then strategically outline how to implement these initiatives, ensuring that branding and UX principles align seamlessly with business objectives. This approach not only enhances the project’s chance of success but also solidifies the company’s market position through coherent and impactful user experiences.

Get a Free UX Consultation!

No matter the scope of your project, it’s advisable to consult a UX design expert early in the process. While not every situation may require a UX designer—sometimes a UI designer or even your existing team resources can suffice— recognizing this early can save on unnecessary expenditures. Engaging the right expertise from the start ensures that your project is not only cost-effective but also aligned with the best practices in user experience design.

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