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Learning from the Masters: Real life UX lessons from Magritte and Van Gogh

I’m a sucker for modern art and, for me, no travels are complete without spying a local collection of 19th and 20th century greats. A recent visit to Brussels and Amsterdam offered a deep dive into two of my favourites: Magritte and Van Gogh, respectively.

Truth be told, I favour Magritte with his hyperreal detail and his way of challenging our perceptions of reality with accessible wit. I had the museum mostly to myself, and I had splurged on an audioguide. It was a diverse and interesting collection…. and yet I couldn’t wait to get out.

The experience was jarring and unmetered—and it was nothing I could blame on Surrealism.

Its shortcomings were only further illuminated when I visited Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum a few days later. It was packed, and yet, like everything in Amsterdam, the crowd followed an invisible but understood rhythm—a natural flow. I absorbed more; I didn’t feel like I was constantly backtracking or missing key pieces; I didn’t feel overwhelmed...

Prime Conditions for Keeping Top Talent

Retention is such a stuffy word for something that’s rooted in emotion and personal satisfaction. Most often, keeping talent isn’t transactional; it’s everyday, human conditions that keep someone engaged.

Great, human companies don’t churn through employees. You hire people for a reason—because you value their expertise and them as individuals. When you do lose someone, it should be for the right reasons: because you’ve given them a platform to take an irresistible step up, or because they have an opportunity to try something completely new and exciting.

As I look at the retention equation, I’ve seen that dollars and cents are just one part.
What conditions create an environment where people stick around, invest and grow?

1/ Purpose & Vision

If you can build a clear connection between what the company stands for and the work you do, it becomes easy to answer the questions: Do I believe in that mission? Is it something I care about? Can I support it? and it means employees aren’t bumping up against conflicting or competing visions. Alignment brings engagement. At Domain7 we try to make our purpose clear: empathetic digital...

Making the Most of Decision by Committee

You’ve got a problem. We all know it. So let’s get it out on the table—the over-crowded, boardroom table, that is. It’s a problem with group approvals.

You can’t help it! It’s how your organization is set up! But we want to help.

We agencies do our best to get around committees—stipulating a single point of contact (POC) and giving firm decision deadlines. But behind every POC is a cacophony of opinions and ideas which are all valuable but almost always conflicting.

Rather than work against committees, we try to equip our clients with the tools to use them and, more importantly, give groups a chance to convey their heart and soul for a project. Not every idea is the right idea, but truly humanizing the web means representing the human voices behind companies—in a way that’s smart and cohesive.

So, how do we ensure everyone is heard without pivoting to accommodate every opinion?

1/ Clearly define a core objective

This is the single most valuable tool we can offer. Your objective should never be to “build a website” or “make an app.” It should be a real business objective—like doubling...

Co-creation: Running a remote brainstorming session

I got a phone call a few weeks back from my friend Drew, who had taken a new job and had been asked to take on an interesting challenge.

“I’ve been asked to facilitate a brainstorming session to name a new technology product our company invented,” he told me. “Only it has to be done remotely—our teams are in two different offices.”

“I know you do a lot of this kind of stuff, especially with international clients, and I wonder how you might do it?”

This was an exciting scenario—especially as I learned about the super-cool digital-payment tool they had developed. I asked Drew lots of questions to learn about his specific opportunity.

“Try to maintain in-the-room energy as much as possible,” I advised him. “If you’re facilitating over a video call, act like the MC, where people are only needing to give attention to the computer when they’re receiving instructions. Otherwise, they should be working with each other, not with you.” We then chatted about a few more exercise and activities he could try, like one called the Mish-Mash.

That’s when teams create three...

Fastest Growing for 7 Years

This week Business in Vancouver released their annual listing of the 100 Fastest Growing Companies in British Columbia. We’re listed for the 7th year running.

Each year it’s exciting to see our name listed alongside thriving, respected local companies, but when I reflect on our growth, it’s often to remember why we’ve gotten here.

Domain7 started as a one-man shop in an Abbotsford home. In the last 18 years we’ve moved into 14 different offices in five different cities (Abby, Vancouver, DC, Seattle, and very briefly in Edmonton!). At every step our growth has always been driven by the expanding maturity of our team and their ability to tackle increasingly interesting and complex problems with confidence and expertise.

When I look at the projects we’re working on today, they are the direct result of the depth of talent we’ve built up on our team, and our humans-first mission. Those are what I’m most proud of, and they’re measures that don’t show up on a listing of top-growing companies. The goal has never been growth for growth’s sake. That’s just...

You Complete Me: Why marketing needs tech more than they know

Let’s say I buy a plot of land and tell my architect that I’d like a tri-level townhome, with a basement. We labor over the designs together and nail down the specs. It’s going to be stunning. I cannot wait for my soundproof basement recording studio.

When the plan is exactly the way I want it, I bring in the contractor and geotechnical engineer... Who point out that my perfectly planned basement simply won’t work in my soaking wet Pacific Northwest plot of land, unless I hire an engineer and go to great lengths that are well beyond my budget. If I’d brought in a land expert at my first meeting with the architect, we could have saved a lot of time and money from the get go.

Building for the web is no different. And yet much of the time, while your Marketing team leads the new website initiative, the Tech or Development team—your digital geotechnical engineers—is only brought in once it’s time to build.

A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON

In early days of the WWW, websites were often the purview of IT (remember when we called it that?)—deep technical knowledge was essential to leaping the big hurdle of getting a site on a server. Marketing had a voice,...

So Your Website’s Live, Now What? Optimizing your site post-launch

It’s live! You’ve put in months of hard work and finally your new website is out in the wild.

After that big final push, it’s tempting to walk away and never think about your site again—at least not for a while. Sure, take some time to relish in your achievement, but don’t sit back for too long. This is where things really get exciting.

You’ve tested your site on a teeny subset of users, and now you get to see it at work. It’s the first time you can respond to users on a broad scale. It’s time to iterate, test and build on your new success.

Here’s how:

1/ Get Cozy with Analytics

Web analytics are the most important and subjective means to measure the success of your site. Analytics installation is standard on every Domain7 website project, but that’s only the first step—after that the fun begins. Every second your site is live, the analytics software is tracking your users’ movements: their demographics, device and browser type, location, entry page, exit page, time on site, everything! This data can get overwhelming so it’s important to set up relevant goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you...