Take a look at this photo, of a sign that I drive past every single day…clearly someone at KFC decided that they could lift some stock imagery, adhere to brand guidelines, use the corporate approved font, and create for themselves a sign that would ensure that people honored the 1-way drive through system appropriately. I can’t say for sure, but it’s consistent with so many conversations I’m privvy to — we don’t need one of those designers, just give us the templates/some examples/some guidelines/some best practices and we can do the design ourselves. But seriously …. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the Colonel himself warning you not to enter his establishment, and the fact that I rarely see any customers as I drive past. I’m often asked “what’s the return on investment of design” – in fact I was challenged to address this question last year at Adobe’s Analyst Briefing in San Jose. My position was that you should really restate the problem as “what is the ROI that you believe exists in the solution you are developing; design isn’t a line item that delivers ROI of its own, rather than the process that unlocks the available ROI in the solution”.
Because that’s the crux of it … if your problem is customer retention or customer acquistion, if your problem is shopping cart abandonment or number of customers who give up midway through a loan application, or if your problem is customer satisfaction for an online self-service experience, then you likely know your performance, and you have some sense according to industry convention or expectation, as to where benchmark performance is.
I wonder what would happen to the footfall in Mill Valley’s KFC, if “DO NOT ENTER” instead said “WAY OUT”, “EXIT ONLY” or “DRIVE THRU AT THE NEXT ENTRANCE !”
Once you understand that ROI that’s available in any given initiative, the Design process offers a much more user-centric approach to solving the problem and unlocking the ROI. While technology – whether that be Adobe technology such as Flex, AIR, LiveCycle ES, LiveCycle Collaboration Server, or another technology – may enable a solution that realizes the ROI, the design process is the difference between a solution built upon that technology that unlocks the ROI, and a solution built upon the technology that doesn’t.
Customers and partners will often ask me if our User Experience team can share some documents or papers that outline “UX practices”, or if we can create some “example screens” that can be used as baselines for someone without design in their DNA to cookie cut every other screen. When I’m asked this, I always think about KFC in Marin…about the logic that suggested that with some sample assets, some photoshop comps, some brand guidelines and the right fonts installed on the computer, customers could be steered in the entrance and out the exit in their droves.
For sure I’ve met some developers who happen to be incredible designers (they’re usually designers who manage to become developers, I think I’m yet to meet anyone who crossed over in the other direction) but they are the exception rather than the norm.
Design is a process, and designers are professionals that drive and participate in that process. I think the real opportunity isn’t to turn designers into developers, or developers into designers…it’s to find approaches, processes and methodologies that create the handshakes between the two, and to create tools (like Flash Catalyst) that facilitate these handshakes and workflows.
In the meantime, if you are working on a project, or with a customer, who is seeking “devigners”, or where “the business analyst” or “the project manager” is “designing the screens”, then maybe you should play a little chicken with them.