Seeing the visual direction for your edTech product for the first time is nerve-wracking. After all, you have a lot riding on the appeal of your product. And you just invested major time and resources in the development and design process.
Hopefully you love what your UX/UI team created as soon as you see it. More often, it takes many conversations to arrive at a design sweet spot.
Whether you're pleased or baffled by the initial design pass, years of experience have taught us how to present UX design effectively and keep a project moving forward.
Here are five common responses to visual design we encounter every day, and how we help our clients stay on track.
1. "Will our users really go for this?"
In edTech, you design for multiple audiences, from students and teachers to school administrators. Each of these audiences expects something different from a product's visual design. However, it's common for a product's stakeholders to have difficulty seeing how user expectations are being met through design.
That's why Backpack Interactive spends so much time during the UX planning phase getting to know your users. By the time we get to the visual design phase, we understand what kind of experience your user base expects when they power up a product. We know which tools your users interact with and whether they look similar to the one you're already building.
When we worked with WNET on their Mission US game platform, we presented a sophisticated design for middle and high school students. Mission US is a complex storytelling game that invites students to choose their own first-person adventure during famous moments in U.S. history. Mission US has stunning visuals and encourages complex decision-making, which makes it a compelling learning tools for students.
We researched other first-person games students play and love, and our findings impacted layout and design features for the site. For example, a video trailer that previews the game draws students in. It's not a typical design move for edTech, but we knew the game's cutting-edge visuals would speak to students using WNET's resources.
When we explained these decisions to our client in the first visual design meeting, it gave us the opportunity to tie important design choices back to the project's original goals. For example, we wanted to ensure that students knew where to go and what to do to begin each game. This priority was reflected in our design choices, layout, and call to action placement. We also decided to change the original design to make teaching and educational resources equally as important as gameplay. Educational content is now a main feature of the site and is easy for teachers to locate, preview, and interact with.
By conducting extensive user research and linking design choices to strategic goals, we help stakeholders understand what their users expect from a high-quality edTech product.
2. "I don't know what this is."
Have you ever been thrown by a wireframe or a user journey when you look at early product mock-ups? You're not alone.
Some of the best tools for understanding design features are the product's initial wireframes. Wireframes are like the blueprints for a house. They don't reveal everything about visual design, but they will give you and your stakeholders a sense of visual placement and important user interactions.
It's also our job to help you visualize things you can't see at work this early in the process. During the initial visual design presentation, we narrate all the interactions we can't show in 2D, like digital animations or hover properties. These are all the interactions your users will find engaging and delightful, but simply don't translate to 2D design.
We always encourage our clients to ask questions at this stage, too. When you feel empowered to ask questions, there is less confusion all around. Clear communication ensures that you have all the information you need to make the best decisions about your product.
3. "Should we add…"
It's common to get all the way through the UX planning and visual presentation phase only to feel as though you should add more features to your product.
Sometimes the urge to add new features means we haven't yet uncovered the primary goal of your product. More often, though, it's a sign that we might be trying to solve a UX problem through design — and that makes everything more complicated.
That's when we go back to the wireframes. We really want our clients to understand the structure and hierarchy of their product, so we make complex decisions about product features together.
But we also want to educate our clients about the most effective ways to design a menu or a data dashboard. Complex features like data dashboards grow and change over time. We always show clients major design features like dashboards in their beginning state, as well as how that feature will change as users generate data. When you give users just what they need, instead of everything they might want at once, you avoid visual overload and make your product even easier to use.
4. "This approach just doesn't feel right."
It's not always easy to explain why you don't like visual design. Sometimes it really comes down to a feeling or a preference. So how do you communicate more effectively about this with your design team?
This is when we start asking more specific questions about what you want to see and use "deep listening" to fuel our responses to feedback. What about the approach doesn't feel right? What will your users expect when they open this product? What's your goal for the user at this particular part of their journey?
The more we can uncover about which goal isn't being reached by a visual design, the more we can delve into user experience to deliver a solution that really works.
We'll also work hard to tell you which design decisions were based in best practices and which are backed up by data. With surveys and user stories driving the conversation, we get to the heart of the matter while ensuring that everyone on your team is heard.
5. "I like it, but I'm not sure my boss will."
It's especially important for stakeholders to participate in design presentations. Not only does a presentation reinforce your planning and decision-making, but it also creates buy-in from every member of your team — including your supervisor.
The visual design presentation is also an opportunity to take our clients through the decision-making process from top to bottom. We tie design decisions directly to UX planning and user pathways, so stakeholders can better understand how each decision in the UX planning phase reflects user expectations. We want to make sure you remember how we arrived at each UX and design decision together.
Visual design presentations are the result of a long, collaborative process. Remember: we're here to make you look good! Design presentations reflect all the careful decision-making and hard work you put in along the way. With the right preparation and execution, stakeholders will feel even more confident that you'll deliver an exceptional product users will love.