March 24, 2016

Co-Founder Mimi Young discusses “Bite, Snack, Meal” for HOW Magazine

HOW Magazine

Co-Founder and Managing Director Mimi Young was featured as a contributor in HOW Magazine, where she discusses the “Bite, Snack, Meal” content approach. Read her piece, “Designing Brand Experiences: A Revised Content Approach,” below or at HOW Magazine.

Designing Brand Experiences:
A Revised Content Approach

Editor’s Note: The following piece on designing brand experiences using a revised content approach was contributed by Mimi Young, co-founder of Behavior Design, an award-winning boutique interactive design studio whose roster of clients has included HBO, JPMorgan Chase and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

In a world of smartphones, voice search and second-screen viewing, there’s no doubt about the fact that consumption habits are changing. In fact, a recent Google survey found opinions on a site are formed in a mere 17 milliseconds. Today’s content browsing habits are demanding “at-a-glance” brand storytelling. That means site visitors need to perceive the entire brand picture in one swift glimpse, from brand values to mission and differentiators. This may sound like a tall order, and rightfully so. The good news is that it’s not impossible.

Here’s a content strategy approach specifically formulated to help you design the most impactful brand experience for those visitors with little time (or patience).

Bite, Snack and Meal: Content as Digestible Chunks

Today’s user is expecting immediate gratification. Recognizing the pace of that user, in gleaning information and interacting with a website, is the first step in designing a successful brand experience. [Hungry for more of the latest perspectives on branding? In The Physics of Brand, you’ll find an exciting new systems approach to branding.] The “Bite, Snack, Meal” content approach advocates for presenting content in manageable portions to allow for content grazing (the “bite”), short content summaries (the “snack”), and if the mood strikes, rich detailed content (the “meal”). The idea is simple: Start with teaser content to drive users to the next level of engagement only when their interests are piqued. A site experience based on personal appeal naturally creates a kind of self-selected filter where choice drives relevance.

Get to the Point Up Front

This content approach is not entirely new. The difference is that today the bite and the snack are required to do most all the heavy lifting for the brand. Meaning, the user experience should be designed to assume that users might not get past that first layer of information. The “bite” needs to be able to say it all.

The takeaway? First impressions need to be packed with insights into the brand and its offerings. Without passing this initial gateway, further communication, interest in the site/brand and trust-building with the content consumer are successively harder to attain. As a practitioner, limiting your content palette requires you to do more with less, so distilling down your message is essential.

Support All Depths of Content at Once

With that said, you won’t be able to get away with excluding real content substance—the “meal” still has its place. Not only do different types of users have different content consumptions requirements, the same user may have differing goals over time based on various circumstances. As a result, UX practitioners need to provide clear routes to multiple levels of content.

Leverage Content Consumption Habits to Drive Awareness and Conversion

On the quantitative front, conversion and ROI can be driven by paving a way through the user journey that leads to the appropriate, pre-determined calls to action (e.g. apply, sign up, submit, etc.). Simple UX design optimizations such as keeping that path free from distractions, overwhelming content, and links that take you off the roadway can be implemented to ensure users make it to the finish line.

Qualitatively, the user experience should express the brand from the first to last encounter. This requires a content strategy approach that cultivates and concentrates the brand message at each level of engagement. Headlines should call out the brand’s unique perspective and get to the essence of the thesis. Imagery, video, and data visualization should also be called upon as shorthand forms of communication. Brand storytelling should be pervasive. For instance, a video on a page should be presented in such a way as to communicate the subject matter covered while simultaneously reflecting brand qualities invoked through the act of content curation.

Replace Lorem Ipsum with Actual Content

Designers should approach their work with the acknowledgement that graphic treatment is inextricably bound together with information architecture and content. Ultimately the visual design has to serve as the glue and the proof point that the information architecture and content strategy are working as intended. After all, what is being sold is an idea, and the design needs to hold up to that idea. The most efficient way to demonstrate the user experience is to put real content into your visual design comprehensives.

The days when designs can be Greeked out with lorem ipsum (the “FPO” equivalent for text) are over. Designers must present the visual treatment as part of the larger user experience and brand picture. In other words, the ‘why,’ ‘what,’ and ‘how’ should be portrayed as a single holistic unit. Even this seemingly harmless tradition needs to be reconsidered in light of a modernized content approach for designing effective brand experiences. By reimagining the process and the ways in which we create meaning, from conception to live interaction, brands will evolve in a way that allows them to serve the most relevant content to their target audiences as quickly as they demand it.