Marketers need UX design skills too! (and here's how they can get them)

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“Oh, $@%&!” It happened again. That gut-wrenching feeling kicks in and you realize you're doomed. You have no one to blame but yourself as you are a week away from the launch of that digital client initiative you have tirelessly been working on, and you realize only now that it is not performing how you anticipated. Don't worry, you are not alone, we have all been there. 

In the agency world, just as in the creative world, a great deal is often left to chance. One man's creative vision may not be in line with that of his teammate and her perspective, let alone that of a demanding client.

How often have you heard this statement: "Ohhh!!! That's how that works? I thought it was going to {insert any sort of alternative functionality to what was actually built}."

As marketers, we sell a story, but as developers of that story we deliver black and white programming, which performs in a very precise manner. Don't get me wrong, we will always rally behind the 'big picture,' the beautiful designs and the grand marketing plans, but when push comes to shove, we are responsible for the delivery of fully functional digital products - complex products with limits, requirements and specifications. 

So how do we align our respective visions?

It's quite simple actually – channel your inner User Experience designer.

While strategists, interaction designers and technology professionals will continue to carry the lion's share of this effort, the distribution of UX skills across creative and marketing disciplines will benefit us all.

Here is a primer on honing your UX chops:

1. Define success. 

Obvious, right? But in order for us all (account folks, designers, developers and even clients) to rally around the one creative idea, we need to ensure we have a uniform vision of what success looks like. Break down the idea into discrete parts and assign measurable success metrics - doing so will crystalize the associated functionality around the intended user behavior and that common goal. Here is a framework:

What problem are we solving?

Who are we solving the problem for?

What defines success?

2. Document. Document. Document. 

Either through low-fi or high-fi means, it is important to document the intended user experience, sparing none of the details. It may be a strategic brief, it may be detailed wireframes or blueprints, it may be a hand sketch on a napkin, but whatever it is, allow this documentation to become the backbone of your initiative, share it with everyone involved and never lose sight of it.

3. Ask questions like a 4 year-old.

Think like a UX designer (note: I'm not saying UX designers have 4-year-old mentalities!) and ask questions about everything. Keep in mind, everything has a function; every button performs an action and returns a reaction. Learn the intended result of each and every function. Ask questions of everything, look for gaps in the logic and don't stop until you have locked down the details of every stitch of what your team and your vision aim to deliver.

4. Verify your assumptions. 

Early and often, discuss the intended results of your digital initiative with your designers, developers and teams, and do so with real world scenarios. Use real content, use real images, and use real data.

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Understanding comes with experience and experience with time, but keeping these principles of UX in mind will better enable you to quickly become well versed and more aware, thus avoiding any last minute confusion and the potential for failure in missing intended expectations.

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UX skills and a solid grasp on human factors offers an essential competitive advantage for marketers working on any digital assignment. Get to learning.

Here is a short list of UX resources that can help you come up to speed and be more effective with your digital marketing campaigns:

Articles, Blogs, Books & Websites

UX Mag

UX Mastery 

Boxes and Arrows

Smashing Magazine

UX Booth

Tools (there are loads of other tools, many more robust, but here is a set of free resources that will give you a solid understanding)…

Gliffy  - to create sitemaps

Pencil Project  - to build wireframes

IntuitionHQ  - to perform simple user testing

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