I have over ten years of experience working as a Professional Designer in major corporations. As an important part of the Marketing Team, I have developed my own check list on how to approach and work on projects in an organized manner. Good designers are not only build with creative minds, we should also be good problem solvers, and moreover, contributors to the marketing results.
When I design, I always keep these things in mind: purpose, time, function, audience, competitors, usability, environment, branding, tools, necessity, and client’s taste. I use creative briefs and ask myself and my clients on these subjects.
Purpose: The ultimate purposes of marketing campaigns are to generate leads, nurture leads, create promoters, etc.. Design, being an important part of any marketing campaign, achieve these by branding, creating consistency, creating options fo AB testing, optimize content readership, etc.. ideas like these are important to help me gather information.
Time: Time refers to the progression of projects, or timeframe. When is the deadline for the complete project? When will I receive the content? Any illustration needs to be developed, photos taken?When do you expect to see the first draft? How much time do we have for review? When does the project needs to be printed and delivered to its final destination or launch for digital assets? In reality lots of projects has a short timeline and needs to be turned around quickly. In such situation, I need to act fast and find the quickest and best solution to produce quality work with the time given.
Function: I always keep in mind on the functionality of the project. It’s very easy to lose track and spend so much time, effort, and money on things that aren't necessary. If the banner's function is to catch attention, and make people stay and hopefully click on the CTA (Call-to-Action) in it, then the banner needs to work consistently with the content in and explanatary or illustrative way, to help visitors digest the content better and therefore become convinced by your pitch.
Audience: I always try to find out who the target audience is. Develop personas is very useful and I worked with the whole marketing team to develop it. It's important to understand the audience's learning style (visual, auditorial, kinesthetic), in order for me to understand what kind of design(s) appeal to them the most (e.g., graphics, words and/or videos). The audience's demographic also impacts my decisions on what typeface and font to use, what images resonates better, etc.. A simple example would be the image of dragon may not fare well with the western audience, but will resonate perfectly with Chinese buyers; also in Asia, red simbolizes good fortune (hence a bull market is in red, as opposed to Europe or America), but may represent misfortune in the Europe or America.
UI/UX (User Interface/User Experience):
How easily visitors can navigate and interact with your websites has a big influence your bounce rate, which in turns impacts your SEO. More importantly, a UI/UX optimzed website will be able to tell a story in a more efficient way, so efficient that it improves the conversion rate of the website, which, afterall, is what your website is there for (more important than being pretty).
Branding: Each companies has an identity and branding that represents them. That should not be violated. A good consistency in branding and an impressive branding itself contribute to the recognization of your business, and in the long run build brand loyalty.
The entire design process should center around the goal of your website, whether it be for portfolio or, in most cases, for marketing and sales. The goal will make it easy for you to adopt or let go of elements and sections that do nothing, or worse, create friction. Effectiveness and efficiency is key if you want your website to be your best salesperson.