What is User Experience Design, Anyway?

The architects building brands behind the scenes

That common question: “So, what do you do?”

It’s one we’re all faced with often but for the user experience designer, it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. If I simply say, “I’m a user experience designer,” I’m often met with a glazed expression and an awkward silence. I sometimes say, “I design websites and mobile applications,” but then people tend to think I’m a developer or a graphic designer.

In our defense, the entire field of user experience design has difficulty defining exactly what it is we do and the role we play. As a standalone discipline, the role of UX is still fresh and, quite frankly, a little controversial.

On one hand, we’re investigators. We interview, analyze, and sort out the who, what, why, and how of a project. We establish the foundation upon which the team designs and builds the site or app. On the other hand, we’re planners and problem solvers. We create site maps, information architectures, content outlines, user stories, and various other tools that serve as a roadmap for what users encounter. These define how they navigate the site, and how they accomplish their goals. But the fun doesn’t end there. Once the practicalities are sorted out, we slip into the creative role and explore the visual manifestation of this information through wireframes and prototypes. These are the blueprints that visually describe what we’re building.

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Written by on July 6th, 2017 in Insight

How to Talk About Your Agency

What you say matters

Years ago, while on vacation in California, I had the fortunate — albeit slightly overwhelming — experience of sharing a cab over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge with the VP of Marketing for a very large home goods company. The conversation inevitably veered toward what I do and, upon discovering I worked for an advertising agency, what my agency was like.

Secretly hoping to get a foot in the door for some new digital business, I quickly set to giving her the list of amazing things our agency could do and the attributes that set us apart from the rest. There was only one problem: My explanation, while factual, wasn’t amazing or very compelling. Long story short, I got the business card, but not the follow up.  

So while the business deal wasn’t struck, I came away with the discovery of a monumental problem: I didn’t know how to sell the company I so enjoyed being a part of.

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Written by on June 27th, 2017 in Uncategorized

MailChimp Highlights FortyFour Director of Analytics

Ryan Anderson talks with the email marketing service about metrics

Fellow Atlanta biz MailChimp invited FortyFour Director of Analytics Ryan Anderson to chat data. In marketing it’s tempting to collect an endless bounty of data and attempt to pull conclusions from there, Anderson says — but that isn’t necessarily the best practice. Read the whole MailChimp interview here and don’t forget to check out Anderson’s blog post (also about data! What a guy) here.

Written by on June 8th, 2017 in News

Fast Company Highlights FortyFour’s Work with CREDO Mobile

Our copy, design, and video work gets a shout out

We’re so excited to see our partner CREDO get recognized for all the great work it’s doing supporting progressive causes. We’re not the only ones impressed, either. Fast Company published a piece applauding the company’s philanthropic efforts, as directed by its clientele. FortyFour’s contributions — including content, design, and video work — also appear in the article. We’re proud our contributions could help propel this brand’s growth, especially when paired with such good causes.

Written by on May 26th, 2017 in News, Work

How Many KPIs Should a Smart Company Track?

Three, in this case, isn't the magic number

The promise of digital centers around just how measurable everything is.

A marketer can go into an analytics platform and instantly see impressions, clicks, and spend by different audiences, times, and creative treatments. With on-site tracking, they can measure performance down to the individual marketing channel. The operations team is able to see how order volume changes during sales and by time of day. Finance departments can tie back every cent of revenue and cost directly to its source.

In theory, this data makes it easier to run an effective business. The marketing team can optimize around the best performing tactics, operations can forecast and plan for labor spikes, and finance has a clear view over how all of this impacts the company’s profitability. More conversions are good, less spend is good, on-time orders are good, and this is where most of our revenue comes from.

Digital platforms have become more sophisticated. The amount of data they collect and can report on has increased exponentially. This has been celebrated by many people in the business world. We agree — having that data available to a business is great. But companies should be diligent in how they consume data.
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Written by on May 26th, 2017 in Insight

3 New Features for Magento

The open-source platform rolls out more helpful tools

The internet is synonymous with two things — shopping and something that rhymes with “corn.” Today I’m going to focus on shopping.

Magento 2 has been out for over a year now. If you’re not familiar with the Magento platform, it is a powerful, open-source (read: free) e-commerce solution that offers users an impressive suite of features to help their business in a highly competitive online market. As of today, the current version number is 2.1.3. There have been significant improvements to the codebase since it first released November 2015. Let’s take a look at just a few of those, in no particular order.Continue reading

Written by on May 22nd, 2017 in Work

How to Develop a Brand Style Guide

Rules matter when it comes to all communication under a brand umbrella

Clear, consistent communication helps build trust between brands and customers. If a brand doesn’t seriously embrace a hard-lined style guide, it can come across as sloppy or unprofessional. Get your message across by establishing a defined, concise brand style guide and disperse it throughout the company to maintain compelling copy. Teach everyone from junior marketers to senior executives to follow the same rules, and your brand’s voice will be recognizable in all company communications.

FortyFour has a standard approach for developing brand style guides. Our rules include:

Pick a base style

It’s an unnecessary headache and time-suck to create a brand style guide from scratch, so lay a foundation with a pre-existing, somewhat common style. No one style is superior to the rest, just make sure you’re consistent. If you go with Chicago Manual Style, that means serial commas are standard. If you go Associated Press Style (which is industry standard in journalism), they are not. This ensures all content under the brand umbrella, including promotional materials as well as external and internal communication, is consistent.
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Written by on May 19th, 2017 in Insight, Resources

The Elegant Intersection of Architecture and User Experience Design

How architectural training can inform agency and client work

Shifting careers is often hard to explain. Whether you’re moving departments or starting over in an entirely different field, you’re likely to face a litany of retorts.

At first, I had trouble explaining my jump from the well-defined architect trajectory to the comparably young field of user experience design. Initial attempts to communicate parallels between the design of website interfaces and the construction of buildings were still lacking.

But after five years and trial-by-fire agency experience, however, I like to think I’ve refined my story. Below is a version of that, highlighting the exciting correlations between my former Architectural employment and current Experience Designer role.

Context is crucial

Understanding and operating within contexts is still essential to great work — all of the best architects and experience designers do it. They examine physical factors like the building site or device screen size and adjust design decisions to accommodate for these influences. Great designers also recognize and execute against non-physical determinants such as office politics, project budgets. All of these factors have a hand in shaping context-driven solutions. Moreover, a finished building or marketing website never stands alone; they’re one element in a collage of multifaceted contexts, a collage that affords architectural and experience design professionals an opportunistic medium through which to creatively work.

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Written by on May 17th, 2017 in Insight

The Art and Science of Minimum Viable SEO Strategy

Part 1 of the Epic Tale: Establishing long-term excellence

If you’ve worked in marketing in some capacity in the last few years, you’re probably familiar with a certain syndrome. It’s called “bright, shiny object” syndrome, and it affects marketers all over the world as they become distracted by the latest fad or trend in the marketing world. Whether it’s Snapchat for your B2B financial firm or Instagram for a funeral home, you may have been the victim or carrier of the syndrome (and that’s OK). With all of the new channels and marketing opportunities developing almost daily, it’s increasingly difficult to stay on top of the digital marketing world.

This is why few channels have lasted with the development of the internet as a more lower cost sales vehicle.Continue reading

Written by on May 10th, 2017 in Insight, Resources, Work

FortyFour Continues to Build an E-Commerce Capability

Our agency expands with Magento

Our agency is excited to announce further growth efforts in the e-commerce sphere. We now employ 10 developers specifically certified with the leading, enterprise-class e-commerce platform, Magento. Magento is written in PHP (hypertext preprocessor), a popular open-source, general-purpose scripting language malleable for web development. One in every four online businesses operate on Magento, making our team’s finesse all the more valuable. With so many developers on staff well-versed on this crucial platform, we can tend to clients’ needs even better, while keeping their brands’ practice as modern as possible.

Written by on April 27th, 2017 in News

Shoney’s Gets a Refresh

Reinvigorating a classic American dining institution

The top casual dining destination asked FortyFour to revitalize its 70-year-old brand. We were so excited to breathe fresh life into the Americana favorite and attract new customers in the process. We worked closely to modernize Shoney’s across social media channels, as well as outside the digital realm with in-store menus, to-go cups, and billboard treatments. Read more about our work with Shoney’s here.

Written by on February 1st, 2017 in News, Work