Welcome to the first edition of Coffee With an Expert, a series of interviews with TSL Marketing's subject matter experts about their areas of expertise.
Throughout these interviews, you'll gain some valuable insights into our approach to digital marketing and lead generation for B2B technology companies.
Our first Q&A is with Norma Shepardson, our Senior Director of User Experience.
Norma, let's start off by diving into the kinds of projects you lead for TSL and our clients.
Currently, I'm primarily focused on our Agile web offerings, which include launch pad websites, UX/CRO optimization and analysis, and digital/interactive content.
I also provide user experience (UX) strategy and guidance to our clients and help guide TSL's own internal marketing initiatives.
How were you first introduced to Agile design and methodology?
I am an artist and graphic designer at heart. But a few years ago, my path led me towards understanding what it meant to become an expert in the area of UX. This progression in my career led me to Agile design, especially as I started to explore HubSpot's Growth-Driven Design (GDD) process. TSL's Agile methodology evolved as we explored how GDD could be customized to work for our customers.
Why is Agile methodology helpful in marketing?
Two of the concepts that make our Agile methodology groundbreaking for our customers are:
- Leave your preferences at the door: Create everything for your users.
- It's not about perfection: Get it to "good enough" and then test it.
I believe that the most critical concept of our Agile methodology is that it forces us to see through the eyes of our users. The design of a website or piece of content shouldn't be based on what we think is cool. It should be all about the users: understanding the people who are consuming our work and then figuring out what we can do to help solve their challenges.
In my opinion, the second most helpful concept is the idea that marketing doesn't equal perfection. There is beauty and brilliance in content that continuously evolves over time. As a designer, I can say it's rather freeing to embrace a "that's good enough; let's see how it works" mindset, versus battling the illusion that your design can ever really reach perfection.
Will you explain what Agile methodology is?
An agile approach in regards to marketing or design is, essentially, the concept of making calculated, continuous changes and improvements over time and then measuring their effectiveness with testing.
Agile is a natural fit for design and marketing because it makes sense to create something and then get it in front of users in order to conduct testing, just like you would for a new app or computer program. Not only does Agile design allow a website to "go live" faster, but it also fosters a partnership with clients as they are brought into the process more frequently and on a deeper level. They aren't just approving final designs; they are contributing their thoughts and feedback at specific milestones within a project.
The term Agile does traditionally refer to an iterative methodology embraced by software developers to allow for flexible and fast updates. The terms Agile methodology, Agile design, etc., have been embraced by numerous industries and disciplines over the years.
What aspects of a website can Agile web design impact?
The Agile methodology doesn't just apply to web design; it's much bigger than that. Agile encourages us to think of evolving the website over a lifetime.
Having an Agile mindset as a designer means you are no longer focused on achieving perfection before your audience views your work. With Agile design, your clients (and/or team members) are encouraged to provide feedback along the way, which means that your design goes through iterations before it's launched.
Here's an example of how we use Agile methodology in TSL's web design process — and how the UX department fits in.
- Before website planning begins, a UX designer speaks to clients to learn about their brand and customers and to discuss other design-centric topics.
- A style board is created, and our clients collaborate with us so that it represents their brand and speaks to their users.
- Once the style board is ready, a wireframe is created. Clients work with our UX designer to ensure it's approved to serve as the website design framework.
- After the wireframe is approved, a more traditional design comp is shared with our client, and the UX designer gathers pre-development feedback.
- Then, the design comes to life as the UX designer hands it over to a developer.
- Finally, the launch pad site is born! From here, the launch pad will go live and our team will move into the continuous improvement phase, where ongoing analysis and testing occurs for the lifetime of the site.
How do you apply Agile web practices to the work we do for our clients?
The concept of Agile website design/development led us to embrace HubSpot's Growth-Driven Design. After working with the GDD process and making it our own, we developed our own Agile methodology that is customized to fit our clients' unique marketing challenges. In a nutshell, our Agile website process is broken up into the following phases:
- Strategy & Development
- Launch pad
Our customers have really embraced this approach. They love the idea of going live with a fresh launch pad site in less than 90 days. And the idea of evolving the site from there really makes the whole "Agile" thing feel less abstract. Clients get that it means being flexible and adapting to change, and most feel that it's a great fit for them.
Read more about our Agile methodology.
Where do you see Agile web design evolving to in the future?
Agile, as a concept, will continue to evolve because it makes sense. It is based on the common sense idea of testing stuff to gather feedback before we make decisions. (Honestly, it's something that makes sense in everyday life, not only in business.)
Gaining outside perspectives on your work has the power to deliver profound value, and incorporating feedback as you go will lead to a stronger product. This is one of the foundational reasons that the concept of Agile is catching on and has become an industry standard for many agencies.
As we move into the future, I see Agile being appreciated more for what it is at its core: a state of being aware and open to change.