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Digital Design: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Curious about the digital design process? Learn the basic principals with this ultimate beginner's guide to digital design.

There aren’t many things we can’t do today on a smartphone or a computer. As our everyday experiences are transformed into on-screen events, the transition doesn’t just happen out of the blue. Digital design, also known as UX design or UI design, is at the heart of web and app engagement. 

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What is digital design?

At its core, UX design refers to the approach of creating a virtual tool or interface. It takes the overall experience of the user into consideration. Rather than focus solely on visuals, graphics, or a website’s organization, digital product designers have to think about all of it as a collective encounter. 

This skillset is in high demand and the industry loves when creative individuals dive into learning UX practices. So what does the digital design process look like? Let’s go behind the scenes of your favorite apps and websites, and see how their impressive interfaces came to be.

What characterizes digital design?

Digital design isn’t quite like any other form of creative product design. UI designers work on development in every sense of a digital experience. Banners and graphics? That’s a digital designer. Building an app or website to fit the user’s needs from the ground-up? Absolutely, that’s the work of a digital designer. 

There are two crucial elements in effective digital design strategy: user experience and analytics. The former guides the latter, so let’s start with the importance of user experience.

UX

In the digital world, the success of a website or app is measured in terms of a user’s experience with that tool or interface, and how effectively it facilitates that user’s goals . Let’s take an app for example. If we’re building an app, we want it to be easy to use and to encourage users to come back often. That means the app needs to be simple to navigate, fast, useful, visually appealing, and offer a solution or value to a user. 

That’s a lot to consider, but digital product designers are up to the task. By always returning to the cornerstone of UX, they can build websites, apps, graphics, and other virtual tools that best serve the audience for which they’re created. App and web designers can solicit feedback from users, but another key aspect of their strategy is analytics. Here’s how data can come into play.

Analytics

It might not seem like data and statistics have much to do with aesthetic principles. However, analytics are an important tool in measuring if a user experience is effective. What gets measured can range from visits to a webpage, clicks on an app, or more complex data like specific searches and time spent on a virtual platform. All of this can point to what works well in the user’s mind and what might need improving. Analytics combined with direct customer feedback can help digital designers to build out the perfect experience. 

Overall, web and app design principles come back to the following: 

  • Focus on usability  

  • Prioritize interactive and assistive solutions

  • Review and analyze analytics and feedback to make meaningful updates and changes

Bottom line: always keep the user in mind!

How to Approach a Digital Design Project

When it comes to getting a project set up for success, there are a few steps to guide it smoothly from start to finish:

  • Get Initiated - It’s crucial when beginning a new project to define why the work is necessary. What are the goals for the project and what story are we trying to tell? Most importantly, you need to define the solution you’re working towards with this design. Asking these questions ahead of any actual designing helps ensure that we have a foundation in place around which to build the project.

  • Make a plan - We know why we’re starting a new digital design project, so where do we begin? Planning is crucial and requires a few creative strategies for mapping out the project. First, a site map or content plan is crucial to guiding the overall project. By establishing the structure of the project, we can work on the details step by step ensuring that everything fits nicely into the overall picture.

  • Content creating considerations - There are many types of content that digital designers can create. The process of approaching this content strategically includes taking a full audit of what needs to be created as well as developing early drafts of the deliverables to get feedback from clients or customers.

  • Design & development - At this stage, it’s important to ask what things will look like and how we’re going to build the experience out for users. Whether you’re developing an app or a website, it’s crucial to identify how the product will work when it’s in the hands of users. Don’t forget the web and app design principles above! When we hit a snag, we can always return to these to touch base with what’s most effective.

  • Testing - Once we have a working design in order, it’s time to test it out. Internal tests are always helpful, but getting the app or site in the hands of those outside the team often yields fruitful feedback. Take all feedback and address concerns and questions carefully. From small bugs to site design choices, everything should be questioned under the lens of what’s best for the user. 

  • Launch and upkeep - Okay, we’re live! The work is far from over though. Digital designers are always looking to optimize and improve their projects for better UX and workability. Plus, the influence of analytics becomes even more evident once the project is live and users can show us what they think of the project. 

Learn more about the digital design process

Check out our Web Accessibility series to see this work in action and shoot us an email to chat about elements of digital design, to make effective work.

June 04, 2021digital design, process, UX, UI