Always Thinking

user experience

User ExperienceWebsites and digital properties live or die by the quality of the experience they deliver—how it fits with the users’ taste, expectations and neurology. TBG’s award winning UX practice is grounded in decades of flexibly wrestling with the web’s thorniest problems—for demanding clients. While we are always relentlessly researching and experimenting with new solutions, our practice is grounded in a depth of experience and understanding of user experience best practices that few firms can match. You won’t find us recommending some flashy new HTML 5 whizamawhat for every page in your site without thinking about how it will play out over thousands of pages—nor will you find us recommending the same old boring stuff as your grandmother’s web firm.

In the era of fully Responsive Web Design, our processes have transformed and sped up a process that was already happening: the convergence of user experience disciplines around common formats and concerns. Building on our long history of intense interdisciplinary review, TBG is increasingly making use of advance HTML prototyping within our efficient structured design processes that are an agile responsive to waterfall. Our processes offer the best of both worlds—structure to provide clarity and focus combined with agile working methods to quickly get to the best results in the most efficient, successful, way possible. Information Architecture, Graphic Design and HTML Production are increasingly converging—if not as disciplines, at least as process steps.

Our UX work is grounded in perceptual psychology and an understanding of user behavior, but also increasingly makes use of fine elements of interaction design—as the web evolves and digital experiences become more human.

The proof is in the pudding—hundreds of beautiful, highly usable sites, awards for usability over the years, longer-than-standard site life spans, and most importantly, very high levels of client and user satisfaction. 

Usability & Information Architecture

Usability & Information Architecture

The usability needs of every website or digital product are unique. Classical Information Architecture is a balance of forces—working to provide the right content to the right place at the right time, despite a proliferation of use cases and different types of users. As Responsive Web Design and smaller device form factors become standard, these crucial decisions become even more complicated.

TBG’s user-centric practice builds on a profound appreciation about how users really function online in different markets and types of site interactions. We intimately understand the full range of contemporary best practices, and have a superb ability to work with our clients to resolve political issues and get the great usability result each project deserves. While many digital agencies have an understanding that ends at “mid-sized website,” TBG has been there before. We understand the theory of usability for large websites because we helped write it:deep content trees, content re-usage, contextual search, multi-site strategy, faceted search, and multiple forms of navigation and context indication. These aren’t just words to us—they are concepts we live and breathe in every project.

Graphic Design & Brand Development

Graphic Design & Brand Development

Sites can have great usability and content without being pleasurable, memorable, or distinct. We think that’s a shame—and leaves full user satisfaction sitting on the table. TBG’s design team prides itself in the creation of appropriate, unique design—avoiding the cookie cutter, always fresh, and always taking the brand to the next level online.

Visual design is also an integrated part of our usability practice. Using color, size and stylization we achieve not only visual emphasis, but a more nuanced, pre-conscious parsing of the page—so that users can instantly know what elements they need to prioritize, which can be read later, and which are for some more specific use. 

In the more compressed mobile space, the stakes are higher, with greater pressures on screen real estate and being able to anticipate user behavior. The visual language of digital experiences is in a period of rapid evolution, and our design practice is tracking the changes and developing aesthetics that work across the full Responsive Web Design range without sacrificing pleasure, specificity, or impact in the design.

User Testing

User Testing

Putting designs and prototypes in front of live users and seeing what happens is always a good idea. Doing it at the right time and at the right way is an even better idea!

At TBG, we have a healthy respect for the varied perspective generated from one-on-one usability testing, focus groups, questionnaires, and the whole gamut of user testing. We realize that the right setup and methodology is key, as such testing needs to provide the maximum clarity about what the user’s responses mean.

TBG is fully-tuned into the fine nuances of understanding the results of user testing, given the typical issues with sample size (number of users tested), range of possible interpretations, and complexity of the testing regime. At the end of the day, user testing is a key way to protect against myopia and false assumptions cropping up in the course of a project. The process is ultimately a search for hidden meanings.

We use an ever broadening toolkit of different types of user testing to sort out unknown factors in a project, inserted at key points in the development process, and work with our clients to interpret the results and put them into action. The results enrich not only our user-centric design practices, but also feed back into future processes, adding to our consumption of contemporary research to understand how the syntax of digital experience—in interaction with user expectations—is changing.

Rapid Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping

Static mockups are decreasingly useful, as our contemporary work with fully Responsive Web Design, subtle aspects of interaction design, and unique site designs making full use of HTML 5 techniques often cannot be conveyed without a prototype. For this reason, our process has moved towards the use of HTML as a common format for deliverables, allowing us to integrate prototyping with higher efficiencies than would otherwise be possible.

It is important to note that since TBG often works on large CMS-driven websites, with many interacting, moving parts and diverse usersthere are many projects where purely Agile methodologies are simply insufficient to provide the necessary consistency and architectural elegance to get a great result. This means that our prototyping must be integrated into slightly more formal development and documentation streams—something we’ve taken great pains to make a sensible and integrated part of the equation, rather than an awkward “side project.”

At the end of the day, prototyping is crucial because, academic disciplines aside, the final measure of digital user experience is how it works and how it feels—aspects that occur to users as composites, and not broken up into separate realms of labeling, layout, aesthetics, and interaction. It is all integral; a piece of the same pie.

HTML 5 & Interaction Design

HTML 5 & Interaction Design

One of the promises of the web all along has been richer, application-like experiences which can be highly compelling and custom approaches to interaction design. Why should experiences like locative computing, drag-and-drop, and interactive infographics be the province of Smartphone apps and desktop apps? Notwithstanding the decade-long excursion with the closed system of Flash, designers have always wanted web standards to provide a richer, more custom, more controlled experience.

Modern web technology (HTML 5, JavaScript abstraction libraries, and the like) allow for all of that, with strong browser support, but many firms have no idea where to start, or produce impressive but out of context bells and whistles.

At TBG we take a different path. We’ve invested heavily in our UX brain trust, such that interaction design and HTML 5 techniques are an integrated part of our design. Far beyond just Responsive Web Design, we are truly viewing modern websites as something new—not just a collection of static pages, but rather, rich environments that seem to live and breath along with the user. That makes it an exciting time.

Web Video

Web Video

We have probably all felt how increasingly visual communication has become—a change in no small measure that has been blown through the roof by broadband Internet and scrolling Smartphone images. While many messages are best delivered in text, others are far more effective through digital video. In the past web video has been a highly separate silo, with an alternate content strategy and art direction path from other digital marketing, except in the largest and most sophisticated organizations and their agencies.

We are seeing that change quickly—with clear opportunities for well-integrated video to enliven and better explain in all manner of digital properties. TBG views human interest videos, explainer videos, positioning videos, virtual tours and the like as crucial parts of many websites. These (frequently short) creative pieces can be highly integrated with site designs and their content strategies, rather than outliers, and can be produced as expandable series. The nature of web video, its production and art direction is changing, and TBG is dedicated to making the best use of it as a natural part of the digital development process. 

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