When we start a new project, whether we are redesigning an existing site or creating a new site from scratch, we like to get our gears spinning by looking at what’s already out in the world. What works well and delights us? What doesn’t work at all and gives us headaches? This process of collecting inspiration is especially useful during our collaborative concepting sessions when we collaborate with our client team by quickly sketching ideas with markers on paper.
Before we start to sketch the interaction we’ve decided to work on, we review the inspiration we’ve gathered. The Crux Collaborative team provides inspiration and we ask our clients to bring their own inspiration so we can decide, as a group, what we like and want to emulate and what we don’t like and want to avoid as we sketch. If you have a collaborative concepting session with us and aren’t sure where to start your search for inspiration, here are a few things to help you get started.
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Consider the goals of the site
Before you start looking for inspiration, make sure you know the user and business objectives at a high level. If you have a feature roadmap or other documentation with detailed requirements, review those beforehand. Understanding these things will help you identify what sort of inspiration may be relevant.
Equally important, it can help you identify what to avoid. If, for example, you love rotating feature areas, you may be tempted to include them in your inspiration. But if a rotating feature does not help clearly help meet user or business objectives, it should not be included.
If you keep the site requirements in the back of your mind at all times, you’ll see inspiration everywhere, even when you’re not looking for it.
Check out your competitors
See what your competitors are doing. They will have similar objectives for their sites and systems. If any of your competitors are doing something particularly well, be sure to capture it. Similarly, if they are doing something very poorly, it’s worth noting so the team knows what to avoid.
The intention here isn’t to copy what your competitors are doing, but it’s a place to begin exploring how your site could handle similar tasks or functionality.
Look outside your industry
Companies in other industries are providing similar details and processes for their customers. They may be solving similar problems in unique ways.
Keep an eye out for features that you might need to use on your site, such as:
- Complex tables
- Graphs and charts
- Detailed product descriptions
- Extensive disclaimers
Review your list of requirements and ask yourself where you might find examples of each feature. If you need a complex data table, log into your financial services sites and see how they handle tables. If you need a search feature that allows users to fine-tune their results with filters, check out a few shopping sites. You’ll be surprised where you can find connections.
Be inspired by content
Think of content as a feature of the site and consider how your audience needs to interact with it. Keep this in mind when you’re looking at competitors, as well as sites from other industries.
Pay attention to the content you see on the sites you visit and look for:
- Interesting content layouts
- Tag lines and introductory copy
- Instructional text
- Clever or helpful error messaging
Explore multiple devices
Don’t forget to use your smartphone or tablet to look for inspiration as well. When 49% of American households only use their mobile devices to access the Internet, the mobile experience can be just as important as the desktop experience.
Try using a mobile device to access the same sites that you explored on your desktop previously to see how they handle the mobile experience. Does the experience feel consistent or did it deteriorate significantly?
Document mobile experiences that effectively present the site in the smaller format without feeling like an afterthought or sacrificing critical functionality.
Prepare to share
Once you’ve collected your inspiration, take some time to jot down what you think about the sites for future reference. Everyone who provides inspiration for collaborative concepting is given a few minutes to talk about the sites they found and what they like or don’t like about them. Writing your thoughts down will help you recall the important details for the group.
Finding inspiration for your project can be a fun process once you know what you are looking for. Contact us to learn more about our process and see how we can help you make your ideas a reality.
By Katherine Block
User Experience Consultant
Katherine is a jack of all trades with nearly every aspect of the UX process. Her broad approach enables her to fill gaps between the different phases of interactive design including Information Architecture, Development, and Project Management.View Katherine's Bio