RECONNECTING WITH USER CENTERED EXPERIENCES
Last week Thursday I attended the 7th installment of digital agency LBi’s ongoing workshops which have evolved to become a great mingling platform in Dubai to network with other creatives and the complimentary breakfast served by MAKE café is most certainly a bonus.
The focus for the session was “user-centered” design under the title “Defining and translating business goals into meaningful creative experiences”; with a spotlight on how well-known hospitality brand Jumeirah Group translates this into a myriad of touch-points for each of its guests.
Representing the Jumeirah Group was Terry Kane, the brand’s Head of Digital, who used the brand’s recent overhaul of its corporate website to demonstrate how it values its digital presence & how this is linked to measurable business goals for each of its entities. Although, this is not unique to Jumeirah alone – globally, the hospitality industry is probably one of the biggest embracers of digital as critical channel to serve a global audience – as one of our strongest globally recognized local brand, their efforts are impressive.
During the workshop, one of the interesting things Terry revealed was how the biggest determinant of the orientation / experience of the new website both from aesthetics, functionality & intuition is the prospective Jumeirah guest. The group invested a lot of time creating 8 key personas representative of the Jumeirah guest, defined with as much details as possible – for example Mrs. Cvetkovic has 3kids, all teenagers, double income household, lives in Brussels, first time traveler to the Middle East. Another persona – for example: Mrs. Peech, retired, English, wife who regularly organizes annual trips for her husband & herself.
The idea then is that the team then mapped the user journey that each profile would take when navigating the Jumeirah site. For a hotel website, this translates to the route to successfully booking a room & the payment gateway, which elements of the hotel’s services appeal the most – in the case of Jumeirah with a portfolio – for Mrs. Cvetkovic at which stage would you then introduce offers for Wild Wadi? All very interesting, especially when you add in cultures too – how a Saudi guest would prefer to interact with the website versus a North American guest. Personally, I have on occasion, visited Jumeirah.com to get details on a specific restaurant in say Souk Madinat Jumeirah because I live here I have not had the opportunity to navigate the site as a prospective guest. I can’t quite remember what it looked like before but at first glance, I do quite like the balanced use of clean amazing landscape shots of the brand’s iconic properties which serve as strong ‘hero’ images.
Overall, key takeaways from the session were:
- Creative formula of success = Partnership + Strategic Focus + Compliance.
- The partnership between the creative agency and client is key to ensuring a successful project completion.
- From concept to development always put the user experience at the foremost of your design & content strategy.
- For a website that serve as the digital window for a complex brand portfolio such as Jumeirah, user experience not only applies to the front-end user (guest) but also the backend user which in most cases is the content editorial team.
…And a MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!
New social network ‘SalamWorld’ offers halal version of Facebook
Coming soon, to a browser near you, this July, is a new social network that describes itself as a ‘halal’ version of Facebook! Introducing SalamWorld.
According to an interview of the founder via TNW-Middle East SalamWorld was created as an answer to a low representation of Muslims across the world on the Internet – “…we’re not constructing an Internet mosque, we are just creating a halal environment for Muslims.”
In the video above SalamWorld is described as “The world’s first global, innovative, protected from harmful content, multi-language, and multi-cultural IT project. We created a virtual, model society, in the climate of peace and a package of halal Internet services that answer to the needs and requirements of the modern Muslim.”
Although the most popular social network on the planet today Facebook is always in the process of updating its harmful content restriction policies & user guidelines the SalamWorld founder firmly believes that there is indeed a gaping market opportunity for such a network platform that provides an appropriate atmosphere for Muslim netizens.
At Zaman we’re always keen to learn about tech startups in the Arab world but the TNW article does raise some valid points such as “Is a new social network, introducing an entirely different kind of walled garden, the right approach for an apparently conservative community, regardless of faith, politics or any labels?”
Additionally, with Facebook statistics via Social Bakers show growing user bases across countries with populous Muslim communities such as Indonesia (43million), Malaysia (12million), Thailand (14million) & Egypt (9million users) AND with 2011 regarded as the year of social media & advocacy for free & uncensored Internet…we’re curious to see just how this new social network proposes to entice users to a platform that hails moderation & restrictions as its USP.
Zaman’s signature calendar
It’s that time of the year again – we’ve starting couriering our signature Zaman calendar for 2012 to our clients & business partners.
Originally we came up with the idea of a Zaman calendar as something that would reflect Zaman’s creativity but also serve as a self-marketing tool that actually provides some kind of functional value to our clients and partners ensuring we stay top of mind, or “on the desk – next to your computer” if we’re going to be literal.
Zaman’s signature calendar stand is designed 100% in house. It is a simple and elegant design made out of clear plexiglass material to enable one to see both the calendar side and as well as the artwork.
Every year we look for a specific theme based on a subject that has inspired us. Three years ago the artwork for the calendar was a fusion of Arabic and Latin typography, East meets West. The following year we looked at Arabic pattern work. For our 2011 calendar we wanted to celebrate the refinement of crafts in the Middle East and their potential evolution.
Staying true to all things authentically Arab, a common theme in all our designs is the use of beautiful contemporary imagery of Arabic artisanship and craftsmanship in a way that celebrates and honours the finest crafts of the Middle East.
Delivered to all of our clients our calendar has become a popular fixture often resulting in a few queries from client’s wanting to know why they haven’t received theirs yet!
We’d like to think that Zaman’s signature calendar has become a vehicle to spread Arabic culture and heritage. Each page month has a unique artwork which means that the calendar in essence then becomes a piece of collectible art that can even be framed and used as a wall hanging or simply to adorn one’s desk.
Our 2012 calendar is inspired by the colourful exterior decorations of cargo trucks from Pakistan (and India) commonly referred to as ‘Jingle trucks’. These customized trucks are often a reflection of the personal taste of the driver as well as representations of a specific origin & sometimes even incorporate elements from the routes they regularly drive. It’s quite common to see poetry and well formed scenes as part of the artwork. Look out for a post from team member Nadia Abdeen, who was responsible for the fieldwork research.
Our calendar provides us with another canvas to display our team’s talent & to give you another peek into the world of things that inspire us in the Arab world.
Enjoy the pictures!
Getting employee buy-in on your organisation’s brand guidelines
Brand guidelines in essence are go-to or reference manuals detailing an organisation’s brand identity and the necessary tools to consistently project this identity to its environment. The overall purpose of brand guidelines, as part of a holistic branding program is to ensure that the brand values, culture, structure and operations of an organisation are all aligned.
In terms of best practice, brand guidelines shouldn’t be modelled as strict dos & don’ts that stifle creativity and the implementation of the brand. Instead, best-practice brand guidelines encourage an organisation’s employees to embrace a shared understanding of the brand story and brand vision, instilling belief in the brand’s authenticity and offering relevant instructions on the application of the brand messages across various platforms even providing some opportunity for creative freedom.
At Zaman, in our work with clients requiring a brand strategy overhaul, when it comes to the brand guidelines preparation stage, as a rule of thumb, we have three identified elements that play a critical role in the build of the final guidelines. These are:
- Primary user – effective brand guidelines must offer relevancy for each potential user profile in the organisation (HR, accounts, marketing…)
- Primary use – in terms of content it must offer value by anticipating the possible needs and queries of its intended users.
- Accessibility for use – brand guidelines must be easily available to all and in the appropriate formats.
Companies that have undertaken a successful brand revamp can appreciate that perhaps the most effective way to implement new brand guidelines is to get a buy-in from employees across ranks.
Employees are the first line of communication between an organisation and its external stakeholders which mind you are not limited to customers but include industry partners, media, suppliers, investors as well as future employees. To this effect, brand guidelines must cater to any situation in which individuals associated with your organisation interact with others as representatives of your brand. Without internal buy-in or understanding of the revised brand even the best thought-out brand strategy is likely to fizzle into non-existence.
So how can you achieve this?
First: Instead of issuing a decree by way of an internal email memo (typical of companies with multiple geographic locations) adopt an engagement-driven approach. Consider scheduling in a series of “soak & scope” workshops for all employees and use these platforms to clearly outline the objectives of the brand guidelines and create relevancy by demonstrating how each user profile in the organisation is to use them. Bearing in mind:
Primary user + Primary use + Accessibility for use
This type of approach not only creates a spirit of brand ownership throughout the organisation but it also ensures that your organisation is projecting a streamlined message within its environment.
Second: Consider setting up external & internal indicators or cues that can be monitored to gauge the overall adoption of the new brand strategy and the effectiveness of your new brand guidelines. Typical external cues could be a marked positive change in customer perception resulting in a “higher ranking” versus previous position and that of your immediate competitors. For internal cues below are a few suggestions that you might consider monitoring:
- Everyone in our organisation knows our brand values and can articulate them simply and clearly. (Yes/No)
- Everyone in our organisation understands their respective role in the delivery of our brand promise. (Yes/No)
- Across all ranks there is a clear understanding of what differentiates our brand from our competitors. (Yes/No)
- All departments from finance to frontline service delivery are aligned with our brand objectives. (Yes/No)
- Included in our performance management systems is an assessment of the contribution each individual makes to growing and enhancing the brand. (Yes/No)
- Our induction programme includes education on our brand and the role it plays in enhancing our organisation and market competitiveness. (Yes/No)
- Strengthening and protecting the organisation’s brand is a fundamental driver behind our organisation’s long-term goals. (Yes/No)
Does your organisation have set brand guidelines? What lessons can you share on how your organisation has or hasn’t been able to effect adoption of brand guidelines?
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