May 1, 2020 - Brittany Garlin

#FeatureFriday with Ink, Inc. Creative Group on The Rebrand and Digital User Experience Design for DecisionBoundaries

Today’s consumers are technologically savvy and expect businesses to deliver an engaging user experience (UX), or they’ll simply go elsewhere. We’ve all encountered websites and applications that make us want to throw our devices across the room in frustration. However, as a business, it can difficult to provide a great user experience when you’re trying to convey a complex service without losing sight of simplicity. 

We were able to connect with Ink, Inc. Creative Group on a rebrand and digital experience project for DecisionBoundaries LLC. – a new financial advisory firm founded by an international finance expert, Carlos Abadi.

Ink, Inc. Creative Group is a full-service marketing agency in Brooklyn, NY; they operate at the intersection of creativity and strategy to produce meaningful growth for clients through actionable campaigns and holistically designed digital interaction points. With a content-driven approach, their mission is to forge long-term customer bonds that benefit both parties, developing meaningful connections between impactful brands and their target audience. From SMB organizations to large-scale enterprises, they help their clients by developing brand identities, digital experiences, and campaign assets that communicate clearly, achieve marketing goals, and captivate users visually.

Let’s dive into some of the insights they provided us on the rebrand and digital experience for DecisionBoundaries LLC.

Q1: Tell us about DecisionBoundaries LLC.

DecisionBoundaries is a financial advisory firm that specializes in financial restructuring, litigation support, and financial engineering. Run by international finance expert and former Roubini Global Economics board member, Carlos Abadi, DecisionBoundaries operates in a competitive and cut-throat B2B market vertical.

With a sophisticated clientele that includes hedge fund managers, bankers, law firms, and large corporations, DecisionBoundaries sought to rework its broader corporate presence to better appeal to the highly discerning C-Level executives it serves. The firm was facing a high “bounce rate” (site abandonment) and our agency was enlisted to boost engagement and conversions through improved brand messaging and digital experience design.

At the outset, we initiated a user experience audit to discern the areas responsible for the high rate of site-abandonment. It became clear the existing website lacked a unifying focus and was not structured to keep the user engaged over time. Instead, it overloaded the user by telling the entire narrative all at once, rather than doling out small, digestible bites. We dove right in to clean up the communication and deliver a redesigned experience that would not only drive engagement, but position our client at the forefront of their industry.

Q2: What was the biggest challenge with this project?

The biggest challenge was conveying the complexity inherent to our client’s line of work without losing sight of our goal to bring simplicity to their digital strategy. While the client’s existing website encountered difficulties due to overly complex messaging, a simplified approach could risk alienating their professional B2B audience by failing to communicate a sense of competency and in-depth expertise.

In a sense, it was like walking a “tight-rope” between the two opposing perspectives: too complex and we risked losing customers’ attention, too simple and we risked losing their respect. It was essential to convey the firm’s industry-specific knowledge in a way that was clear, concise, and easily digestible. 

This “tight-rope” was a challenge we faced in all aspects of the project. Conveying complexity in simple terms was not just a concern for the web copy and direct communications but also in the design and structure of the website itself. 

“The biggest hurdle was fully understanding the complex problems that companies, institutions, and investors are faced with. By understanding the needs of DecisionBoundaries’ clients, we were then able to understand the unique and innovative problem-solving solutions they offered.”

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

When DecisionBoundaries approached us, we saw the classic tale of a lack of messaging hierarchy (i.e. all content held equal weight). Without clear structure to guide users to the information they need, audiences will often abandon a site rather than spend the time required to scour through pages for the answers to their questions.

Even if all the information is there on the page, when it is difficult to find or provides no clear hierarchy to navigate, web visitors will usually get frustrated and abandon the site. Especially in today’s “mobile-first” era, immediacy is crucial to your website’s success.

“With B2B marketing, the purchase funnel is notoriously complex, but decision makers still demand the same “1-click” Amazon-inspired interactions they’ve come to expect as consumers. At Ink Inc, we shorten the path to checkout by anticipating customer questions and answering them preemptively through informational architecture, clear design, and simple language so that the decision to “yes” is that much quicker.”

Max Irzhak, Associate Creative Director

This is where a well-designed user experience plan can prove pivotal in driving site engagement and web conversions. By considering what information is most essential to your target audience at specific digital interaction points (e.g. the “About Us” or “Our Services” pages), you can guide users towards a more fulfilling experience with your brand.

Q3: At a high level how do you conduct a user experience design audit?

From a 10,000-foot view, our user experience design audits begin qualitatively—evaluating web copy, design, site structure, and layout from a strategic point of view that our team holds—and are finalized through a quantitative perspective, incorporating data (when available) on key metrics and goal attainment. 

In general, it’s about noticing the asymmetries—which pages do people visit most often, spend more time on, noticing choke points etc.—and finding the commonalities shared by your most successful interaction points, alongside those that fall short. Look at what’s working and what isn’t, then apply those insights to improve under-performing areas.

This can vary from client to client, depending on the analytics and evaluation tools currently in place. There are some incredible tools out there that provide added depth and make the process far more effective. For example, heatmaps and live-visit recording (alongside event-tracking tools) can help you spot chokepoints, areas of frustration, funnel drop-offs, and positives like high-engagement zones.

Q4: How often should a business conduct a user experience audit?

User experience design audits should be conducted regularly (ideally, at least once a quarter), and certainly when data indicates a change in web engagement, page visits, or conversion results. There are some excellent tools that will automate trend observation, but there is no substitute for a deep, human-driven review.

Q5: How do you simplify complex information on a website?

Our approach comes down to finding a core theme, a messaging strategy to build around, and allowing each aspect from copy to design & development to grow organically in a way that will speak to that core idea. Considering each prong of your communications (textual, visual, and experiential), we aim to design a single, coherent story which is told in unique ways across each of those mediums. 

Distilling a variety of messaging goals down to one universal theme allows it to speak clearer to your audience, keeping the team on the same page in the process. Cross-functional coordination and strong communication are, of course, required. 

“At Ink Inc, we shorten the path to checkout by anticipating customer questions and answering them preemptively through informational architecture, clear design, and simple language so that the decision to yes is that much quicker.”

Max Irzhak, Associate Creative Director

In designing the messaging architecture for DecisionBoundaries, we carefully coordinated copy, design, and guided development to ensure all elements met strategic communications goals set throughout the brand development and web design process.

Our strategy was to communicate clearly around the core pillars of the client’s business: expertise and innovation. Focus was spent simplifying onsite content, which previously felt inaccessible and overwhelming. At the same time, we had to balance that simplicity against the parallel need to convey a strong sense of industry-expertise.

“By producing benefit-driven copy with a human tone, and breaking information down into its simplest elements, the content became digestible, clear, and drove people to take action.”

Max Irzhak, Associate Creative Director

“Starting with content, we break it down, give it structure and where possible help the content tell its story. Methods include using clear headers, omitting jargon, and dividing content into manageable sections. The use of numbered lists and bullets can help, along with clear calls-to-action to keep navigation easy. The copy needs to be clear, concise, and easily readable whilst using language that appeals to the audience. Visual aids like graphs, icons, videos, and other imagery are also crucial to support the understanding of complex information.”

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

Q6: What are the main causes of a high rate of site abandonment?

Excluding technical factors like page load time (which has a significant impact), a high site abandonment rate usually comes down to two main factors: poor communication of the unique selling proposition (“USP”) and inadequacies in designing the user journey (or flow of a site) to guide users towards actionable conversion results. More people struggle with the latter of the two, succeeding in generating user appeal but leaving little in the way of momentum towards a specific result.

A lack of “guide rails” for users can minimize their feeling of agency—without a clear decision to make—or can fail in prompting a sense of urgency in the customer journey. This often leaves visitors feeling lost or without the sense of initiative required to spur action. In contrast, an inorganic or “chunky” flow that disrupts users can feel forceful, coercive, or just generally frustrating. 

 “Bad design will distract visitors instead of engaging them.”

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

In our project for DecisionBoundaries, we sought to gently guide users towards actionable decision-making points with through meaningful calls-to-action in web copy, design, and site structure. 

A good example of this is the design and layout of the hero-block on the homepage; keeping with our messaging strategy, the “maze” design above-the-fold not only symbolizes finding “clarity in complexity” but also, quite literally, guides users directly to an actionable conversion path. The end of the maze leads users towards a “Get Started” button that opens the drop-down menu for a contact form.

By having a simple and clear path (in this case, literally a dotted line to follow) users no longer find themselves searching for information, rather, it is presented to them in digestible bites along the journey.

“Some of the main causes of abandonment include frustratingly slow page loads, followed by an unclear or confusing message when the page actually does load. Confusing navigation also contributes to abandonment, navigation should be intuitive, as should finding information. If content is badly organized and leaves the users searching longer then they have to, it will result in them jumping ship.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

Q7: Walk me through your design process. What steps did you take and how involved was your client?

Building upon the core theme developed in our messaging architecture for the project, our design process finds roots in these central pillars to grow organically upon. The visual language, tone, and style all emanate from a place we believe will best communicate our intended message. 

“The first step is defining the project by asking the obvious questions such as what is the website’s purpose, and why does it exist. Having clear goals and objectives from the start is the key to a successful outcome. The second step was to determine the site architecture. On review of the old website it was obvious a new layout was need. Armed with fresh new content we created a sitemap and wireframes for each page, with several developments and changes whilst working closely with the copywriters, we were able to define the content of the website. 

With the building blocks in place, and a solid understanding of the site’s purpose and goal the visual design could begin. Without much of an existing visual brand in place, just the logo, we were able to rethink the style, colors, images, and typography, ultimately defining a new visual identity along the way.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

The design phase starts out with brainstorming and thinking about the message it needs to convey and how we can communicate that visually. DecisionsBoundaries’ tackles very complex issues. Through their extensive expertise and innovation, they bring clarity and practical solutions to a problem. All this needed to be communicated along with establishing trust and guiding users along a path where they could quickly obtain the information they need – and ultimately act on it.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

“A key part of the visual design was to divide the content into easily digestible chunks, one way we did this was through the use of custom designed icons which are an effect way to support and reinforce content as well as hook in any visitors scanning over the page. We also divided each page into blocks of color, clearly defining each section and allowing users to navigate with ease. Other methods we used were visual aids such as a timeline, by keeping content visually interesting this helps visitors engage with it.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

“Direct and open communication with the client is also paramount. Carlos Abadi, the founder and principal at Decisions Boundaries was involved in every step of the process. As an international investment banker with 30 years under his belt, his wealth of knowledge and insight was invaluable.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

Q8: How do you ensure that your team understands the client’s vision and implement it correctly? What formats do you typically use for handing files off for development?

Our messaging strategy process really helps to keep everyone on the same page. Communication is essential, and by orienting each project element around a core theme we are better able to understand and express ourselves in relation to a set of shared common goals. The messaging architecture serves as a sort of “framework” that we can all access and use to interpret the cross-functional elements required. 

“Cross-functional collaboration is crucial; I’ve found that the best work is born when people of different backgrounds and interests put their heads together to discover new ways of thinking. By training our creative teams to work together, instead of operating in silos, the messaging and design became cohesive and told a story. By understanding what made our audience tick, working as a team, and breaking down messaging and design into its simplest parts, our client’s brand redesign quickly came to life.” 

Max Irzhak, Associate Creative Director

“Communication is key in every project. Regular team meetings, conversations and brainstorming sessions are hugely beneficial to ensure the team fully understand the objectives. There’s always a temptation to dive straight into the visual design of the project, but spending time on discussing and fully understanding the brief are key to ultimately solving the problem.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

“We hand over layered Photoshop files to the development team, ensuring layers are well organized and labeled. We also provide a style guide outlining colors, font sizes and styles, along with a clear hierarchy for headings. If the style and elements such as buttons, links and spacing are consistent it makes life much easier for the developers. We also provide mock-ups on how any movement, animation or interactivity should function, as well as providing responsive guidance in the visuals for how the site should look and function on mobile and tablet. Our aim is to deliver all the information so as not to leave the development team guessing.” 

– Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

Q9: How did you design with website performance in mind?

Designing a website for performance—and especially, mobile performance—is a crucial process that should begin very early on in the project. Considering breakpoints, mobile design alternatives, and usage of resource-intensive media when the website is simply a concept, or set of wireframes, saves countless hours later on in development.

When working with a client’s internal team, we communicate and collaborate on ways to achieve the full impact desired with a minimal resource load. Where we can take the reins more on hosting and server-side elements, implementation of CDNs and proper web caching can ease the burden of larger visual assets. 

“Website performance effects user experience so it’s critical part of the design process. We’ve found the best way to tackle this issue is involve the developers from the early stages. We share wireframe and design mockups with them so they can flag any potential issues. Throughout the design process, we keep in mind the use of graphic elements such web fonts and images and how they contribute to the page weight.”

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

“Any use of animation, parallax or video is for a purpose, not just flashy decoration, it must have meaning for the user, and therefore enhance site experience”

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

“From the early stages we also think about how the experience will translate on smaller screens for mobile users or on slower internet connections.” 

Katie Rhead, Lead Designer

Thank You!

A giant thank you to Morgan Titcher and the rest of the Ink, Inc. Creative Group team that shared their insights for our #FeatureFriday post. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts about #FeatureFriday and the topics discussed above. If you work at an agency and are interested in being a guest on our #FeatureFriday please reach out to yourfriends@agencyvista.com

If you want to talk social media, you can always find me on LinkedIn. I love connecting with social media marketers and creatives so don’t hesitate to reach out!

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