Or how can I get more from my website or app?
Technology is getting more approachable. Web services are increasingly easy to engage with and they all promise instant success. From websites that let you build websites to integrated marketing platforms, these services are getting better, more robust, and really quite helpful to the non-technical or mildly technical marketer, designer, etc.
What does this mean for your digital initiatives? Simply put, marketers and designers (and especially tech savvy ones) have more options than ever, as more and more services are competing with each other. Having so many options can make decision-making tricky, and integrating multiple services into a seamless experience can be a daunting task.
This ultimately leads to a host of questions:
- How do I navigate this ever changing landscape?
- How do I know which services work together?
- Is my UI helping or hurting?
- Am I meeting my business objectives?
- What about SEO and analytics?
All of these questions must be answered before implementation can be considered. Having a “digital spirit guide” to help you prioritize decisions and advise on best practices is going to be crucial to your success.
What is a digital strategist?
Generally speaking, a digital strategist has a broad knowledge base and a fairly robust toolbox. They tend to have multiple facets to their skillset and these are some of the skills to expect:
- Researcher – Looks for data and new tools to enhance understanding of the problem and potential solutions
- Futurist – Scans the horizon to spot industry trends and stay one step ahead of the competition.
- Architect – Knows how to integrate a network of disparate “best of breed” services into a seamless system, but also when to build something new for your specific needs.
- Translator – Speaks the language(s) of developers, marketers, and designers.
How can a digital strategist help?
A lot of times a marketer, designer, or product owner will see something that a competitor has done and want to replicate the functionality. This invariably leads to a request to mimic that functionality or some piece of it. Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as just telling a developer “make it like this.”
A digital strategist often starts by pinpointing the need that the desired functionality is supposed to fulfill. Then they look for metrics that support that this is an actual problem that needs to be solved in the first place. Finally, they work with both business stakeholders and technical team members to find a solution that meets timing and budgetary requirements.
What does the process look like?
Finding the problem
Sometimes, the problem isn’t apparent. Or a “solution” is presented to a developer that is not a solution nor does it address a real problem. Digital strategists dig past the initial request to find the inherent issue as well as the best solution.
Usually, this starts with a pretty in-depth discovery session. This will effectively lay all the cards on the table and allow for a holistic analysis of the potential problem(s). This often requires several rounds of interviews, information requests, and questions.
Many digital strategists will then write a “brief” describing the problem, along with possible solutions and other points to consider. The brief can get quite involved once things like target audience, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), platform requirements, UX/UI insights, etc. are documented. This exercise is a starting point for the discussion where everyone can be on the same literal and figurative page in the search for solutions.
Crafting the solution
Once the problem is identified and deemed solvable, the strategist will start building a tactical plan that incorporates business requirements, user requirements, and technical considerations.
A digital strategist is a natural way-finder. Looking at all of the available information, a strategist will build a solution brief that outlines one or more recommended solutions.
Remember, there’s no single solution to any of this and what companies really need is a partner that knows how to evaluate a plan for flaws. They also need someone that is able to see the speed bumps and roadblocks before they become problems.
A digital strategist works hand-in-hand with the UX, design, and development teams to ensure that the strategy is properly expressed in the deliverable. As a project progresses, decisions are made, plans are amended, and designs are revised. It’s important to re-evaluate regularly to ensure that these incremental decisions don’t have a negative impact on the overall strategic implementation.
What should I expect from a digital strategist?
A digital strategist should be building and sharing the following types of deliverables:
|Reviews your app’s interface and compares it against best practices. The result of this analysis is a list of potential usability issues.|
|User Flows||Illustrates a user’s path through your website and other web properties to a desired result. (read: conversion path)|
|Wireframes||Shows a digital deliverable in a low fidelity way which helps identify key user interactions and content development needs. This is generally a dependency for starting on front end design.|
|Analytics strategy||Defines the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the deliverables and the strategy required to properly measure success.|
|Platform recommendations||Looks at platforms that fulfill the project requirements along with pros and cons for each.|
|Iterative feedback||Makes sure that iterative decisions made through the process don’t negatively impact the original deliverable strategy.|
At the end of the day, digital strategists are great resources for anyone who is trying to navigate the development or maintenance of an application or website. They will ensure that what you are implementing solves a problem that actually exists, and that the solution has clear goals, along with a way to measure them. A digital strategist will always consider the requirements in a holistic way, ensuring that both users and business needs are addressed.
A digital strategist is your digital spirit guide: their goal is to make your life easier. Leveraging their skillset will let help you to see the whole landscape and make the right choices to solve the right problems with the best tools.
Have a question or something to contribute? Let us know in the comments! We’re always interested in hearing from designers, marketers, and product owners about how they talk about and implement digital strategy. We have a lot more resources on this subject if you would like to dig deeper into how digital strategy can help your project.