If you have a website for your company or are trying to promote your personal brand through social media, odds are you know a couple things about the Internet. One, you’re probably aware that a lot of people use the internet, to the tune of 168 million DVDs’ worth of information exchanged online on a daily basis. So, yeah. A lot of people are online every day. Two, you probably have a good sense of just how much business is done over the Internet every day.
In case you weren’t totally sure about the numbers, it’s about $2.5 million in ecommerce every minute. Mind-boggling numbers, I know. But here’s the point: if you are using the Internet to promote a business or brand—if you’re not, you should be—then you know the importance of having a good-looking, attention-grabbing website.
Because so many people are online all the time nowadays, it’s often the case that your website is a potential customer’s first impression of you. And you know what they say about first impressions. They’re important. Very important.
Of course, if you know just how massive the Internet really is, it’s quite possible you’re also quite intimidated. You might be asking yourself, “How can I possibly make a splash in a world that is overflowing with new information every day?” It’s a good question to ask, but don’t worry, you don’t need to be intimidated. All you have to do is make sure your website or app looks great and functions smoothly. That’s the first step in establishing a dominant online presence.
Now you’re thinking, “Okay, sure. Seems simple enough, except for one thing: I don’t know anything about web design. I’m just trying to run my business!”
If you are thinking this, that’s okay. First of all, you’re not alone, not by any means. Second of all, don’t worry if you don’t know the first thing about web design! There are professionals for that sort of thing! Indeed, the world of freelance digital design has really taken off in recent years, as more and more people begin to recognize the paramount importance of their online presence.
Before you get too relieved and rush out to hire the first digital designer you meet, you should know that the process of digital design is a very complex one, involving many steps. It’s equal parts art and science, and because the website is such an important part of your company’s image, there are tons of little details that go into the creation of a great product. Here’s a few things you should know about digital design before you dive in:
First, you should know that generally speaking, the process has four steps: User Experience (UX) Design, User Interface (UI) design, Visual Design, and Interaction Design. Typically, good digital designers will specialize in just one or a couple of those categories, and the process always goes in that order. Think of it like building a house. You need to have the blueprints first.
That part comes in the UX phase of the design process. Then you need to lay down the foundation and the framework of the house. That’s where UI comes in. After the walls and roof and windows are built, you need to make sure the house actually looks good. That part is taken care of in the Visual Design phase. Then, after all that is done, you make one final sweep of the house to make sure everything works and the layout flows nicely from room to room. That’s where Interaction Design comes into play.
Obviously, all four of these steps are crucial to building a high quality website, but if there’s one you should make sure you absolutely don’t skimp on, it’s Interaction Design. Think about it: your house can look gorgeous and attention-grabbing and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but if you’ve got a staircase that leads to nowhere, you’re in trouble, and that’ll be the one thing everyone says about your house, despite all the pretty decorations. Don’t believe me?
Ask TurboTax or Amtrak, companies that, despite offering very solid, useful products and services, consistently get lambasted for having infuriating websites. Trust me, you’d much rather be winning awards for great Interaction Design than dealing with the many customer service calls that companies with crappy websites probably field every day. Looking good is very important, but if your website falls short in functionality, you’ll get left behind.
So, you’re fully convinced that you need to get out there and hire a top quality freelance Interaction Designer. Good call. But, now you might be thinking to yourself, “How can I tell the difference between a really good Interaction designer and an impostor? It seems like digital design is such a subjective field anyway.”
Well, you’re right. Digital design is a very subjective, art-oriented field, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tell the difference between a good designer and a bad one. As part of the rollout of their elite freelance designer network, my own favorite hiring platform Toptal (used it many times for my company 1WD) has been publishing a number of hiring guides that include ways to determine how you can properly vet all sorts of designers, including Interaction Design candidates.
Among the many pointers and sample interview questions you should keep in mind when vetting freelance design candidates, this hiring guide also points out a couple key features that you should definitely pay attention to in your search. The first one is an understanding of the psychology of a user. Good Interaction designers will know that many users go to sites for a number of different reasons, and they will tailor their creative process to that particular end—user motivation.
Because Interaction is the last step in the process before you present your site to the world, you want to make sure your Interaction designer has a very firm grasp on the many psychological principles that underscore our internet usage, including Goal-Oriented Design, Personas, Cognitive Dimensions, User Scenarios, and Learnability and Usability, among others.
Additionally, because digital design is such a subjective process, it’s absolutely crucial that your designer be a good communicator in order to make sure there is a clear understanding of your vision for the website. This process requires constant back and forth, and if your designer isn’t great at keeping in touch, you might end up with a very different final product than you envisioned.
So now you’re ready to take the world by storm with your brand new, beautifully elegant and smoothly-functioning website. All you need is the help of a good freelance digital designer. Be sure to keep these tips in mind, and don’t skimp on Interaction just because you can see the finish line. Happy hiring!