At FortyFour, collaboration is at our core. Working closely with our clients keeps us aligned on the goals and objectives of our work, and for each step of the process, it allows us to explain why we make the choices we do and what impact they have on the overall outcome. For example, typography is often considered an aesthetic component of the designed end product, but today, it’s as important to the overall user experience as ever. Using only type, we can guide a user to take a specific action, help them prioritize certain bits of information over others, or prime them to anticipate what comes next. That’s powerful stuff that we want our clients to understand so they can engage with us in a conversation that results in the best work possible.
What other elements of typography do we want our clients to consider during the UX phase? Let’s discuss.
When a new website design project kicks off, a common practice is to start designing a page to explore the visual direction for the site. This makes sense in some ways: clients like seeing pages because it’s the most obvious way to visualize what a site is going to look like—and, after all, that’s what they’re paying for. Typically this means starting with the homepage and exploring the design system through the context of that page.
The problem with designing the homepage first
The homepage is the first thing a user see on the site. It’s the foyer, with doors leading to all the other areas of the site. The problem is, homepages tend to be the most unique page on the site. Elements on the homepage often only serve one purpose: to drive a user to another area of the site. These homepage elements are some of the least reusable elements on the site. So why do we start with a page that does so little to inform the rest of the site? Why start with pages at all?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Continue reading
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
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. Continue reading
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.
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
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.
FortyFour banded with Exide Technologies to revamp the battery brand’s entire website, alongside new brand guidelines for the company as a whole. We also developed several human resources videos and marketing campaigns, among other contributions. Read more about our work with Exide here.
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.
Our agency has been steering the digital presence for customizable Coke bottle program, Shareacoke.com, so it makes sense we’re merging it with the Coke store. Now all personalizable Coke bottles, as well as other Coke goods such as apparel and collectables, are available at one umbrella site. It’s not just bottles anymore.
Our agency expands beyond traditional advertising copywriting with a new, dedicated content team. The department will tackle content strategy and editing services, among other content needs, to better ensure surpassing clients’ expectations. We plan to use our content team as a force to further propel FortyFour forward in the digital space.