UX, UI and Prototyping at Taylor

The majority of my time at Taylor is spent collaboratively solving UX and UI issues. A lot of the time that means prototyping new experiences to get stakeholder buy-in. It also means working closely with our agency and development partners, as well as multiple teams within the company such as sales, product development, and HR.

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Content Page Experiences With a Activist Twist

I spend a lot of time working with our content team developing new ways to tell the Taylor story. This involves a ton of prototyping. We iterate, change content, and constantly re-evaluate the user problem we’re trying to solve. Below is a brief overview of the steps taken to develop a new sustainability focused section on the site. This is an ongoing project.

Content Map and Information Architecture

Coming up with a content map and considering the information architecture of a project is one of my favorite phases. Getting everyone in a room together, and laying out on the table what all the stakeholders in a project think…before any designing gets done. Often I like to talk to co-workers and collaborators individually to talk through any ideas they might have for the project. The process is similar to conducting user research, but with internal teams and collaborators as opposed to end users.  

Key insights for this project

After talking to a large group of co-workers it became apparent that the main focus of this new section was presenting information about the projects we’ve been working on.

There was a need to establish trust early on in the experience. Saying we’re working on a project isn’t enough, we need to show that other qualified brands believe in these projects too.

Many team members wanted this experience to be ‘brand adjacent’, living on its own and able to grow, but still being associated with the base company.

There needed to be simplicity to the navigation, and information needed to be scannable.

Competitor Analysis

I love being inspired by others. There are so many great ideas out in the world, and so many amazing brands that can help bring your own ideas to life. For this project I looked at brands known for telling stories based in social and environmental issues. Brands like Patagonia, The Nature Convservancy, and also direct competitors like Martin and Fender.

Side Bar: Part of the reason I love conducting competitive audits is to see what brands with a very high design maturity are developing. Not every team is ready to conduct rounds of researching, testing, and iterating. That might be from a lack of education on UX, for legal reasons, or technological debt. When conducting a competitive audit I think it’s important to keep this in mind. The company focused on developing new technology is able to consider solutions that wouldn’t be possible at a company still working on understanding how to empathetic to their users to help them complete their goals.

Competitive insights for this project

There is very little ‘green washing’ in the messaging. The brands that are telling the most successful stories, and conveying their messaging in the clearest way, are doing it in a very high level, non-force fed way.

The content is evergreen, and grows as the brand grows. There are new stories, and updates for most of the projects being shown. It’s not enough to ‘set it and forget it’.  

Products take a back seat to story telling. Very, very rarely is there even an inkling that the user is being put into a purchase funnel. The focus is on the content, not on the products. 

Surveys and Pain Points

It’s one thing talking in a room with a handful of coworkers, it’s another getting out there asking people what information they want, and what solutions would be helpful for them. I did some independant user research early on in this project to understand what the users wanted, to help inform the initial designs. 

Survey insights for this project

Users felt like every brand is trying to spout some kind of sustainability story these days. It’s important to them that the brands they buy from are doing ‘real work’, not just saying they’re doing the work. 

Users are looking for two kinds of information. The first is quick information that is easy to digest, with easy to understand facts. The second is long form content, with information that legitimzes the efforts, and explains why the initiative is important. 

The users also backed up the teams feelings that establishing trust was important. They referenced other websites that show publications and news shows that talk about the projects.  

The Creative Phase

With buy in achieved – it’s time to get creative. Trying to push boundaries so that different team members can see the content in different layouts. It’s critical during this phase to always keep the user in mind – yes we want to make a cool experience, but we also need to make sure that their journey is as easy and intuitive as possible.

Architecture and Storyboarding

Content is king, or so they say. Using the insights from the intial round of testing/surveys we can start to think about the content that’s going to live in on these pages. In my experience this process takes longer than expected. It’s good to get the ball rolling with brainstorms, and even quick mockups because all of the assets needed to support the content will likely take months and need to be budgeted for. 

Storytelling and Navigation Insights

There are a couple of larger stories and projects that must be present in the experience. These are non-negotioable for the stakeholders.

An overview section is a good place the talk about the ‘why’ of the projects and to show off some quick stats for the users who don’t want to spend time diving deeper. 

Having overview content on the ‘home’ page will help users decide if they want to go deeper into the experience. 

Make sure that SEO stays top of mind, it’s not just sustainability that we’re interested in ranking for, but also how that ties into guitar and sustainability leadership searches. 

Module Prototyping

It helps to have design and content teams working together, and this project is no exception to the rule. Working in tandem with the content leads I comped a variety of new modules to help tell the stories. Something that experience has taught me is that simple is usually better. Yes, we can make a super immersive VR jungle experience, but is it worth the resources, dev time, and upkeep, or is there a much simpler way to tell the story and help the user along on their journey?

It’s important to note here that at this stage these are not final designs. We’re experimenting and looking at what’s working and what isn’t.

Main Project Module

This is a module for a featured project. These projects will have overview videos, and individual page(s) that will give the users the option for more content. It was important to have an overview, and a video view option for this homepage module.

After review there were a couple of changes to this module. We wanted to add in some kind of ‘trust identifier’. The branding of the project wasn’t necessary. We wanted a specific CTA to watch the video.

After review there were a couple of changes to this module. We wanted to add in some kind of ‘trust identifier’. The branding of the project wasn’t necessary. We wanted a specific CTA to watch the video.

Quote Module

One of the characteristics of this experience that we wanted to maintain was having a human voice. Yes it’s a large company doing sustainability work, but it’s the people and the founders of the company pushing us to do it. Having quotes and elevating those quotes is a must. 

Article Slider

The article slider is a necessary utility for these pages. It can hold deeper related content, outlink content, and works nicely on desktop and mobile. 

The Final Phase

We got creative, we identified exactly what information needs to be on the page, and we brainstormed future states. Now it’s time to nail down the final form and prepare the page for development.

Art Direction

With the bulk of ideation behind us, it’s time to begin organizing assets. Plan new photo shoots, and video shoots to support the known content. Anticipate new asset needs and plan ahead for those. Develop a look and feel to remain consistent across the experience.

Art Direction Insights

There are sooooooo many assets for some of the featured projects. Organizing them is a multi-phase process. I’ll make an initial pass, then work together with the content team to narrow down to a final selection.

Because of the emphasis on imagery in this experience there will be the need for new assets. Establishing the look and feel for ‘the hub’ is going to help with that.

Use video whenever possible. The videos should be shorter in length, and provide valuable insights. We can draw some insipiration for the look and feel from existing video assets. 

For some projects we just need to work with what we have. It might not be possible to get new assets, so being flexible and creative is important. 

Protoyping

Create a ‘final’ high fidelity prototype to get final sign offs. This proto still contains some lorem and very little deeper content, but it accurately represents all of the major components and establishes the layout for the development stage.

Protoyping Insights

This is an iterative process. Working closely with all stakeholders and being able to validate design decisions is important at this point. 

Start thinking about the hadoff to the development team, and the testing that will need to take place within that process.