Posts by Philip Allen

Rapid Prototyping as part of user-centred design

A Rapid Prototype is a functional Website model with working navigation, images, graphics, text and even Meta information for Search Engines like Google. Prototypes offer many advantages over Wireframes, which are static non-functional outlines of Web pages.

Why Develop a Rapid Prototype?

Here are 10 good reasons why Rapid Prototypes provide a logical route for planning, scoping, accurately costing and building a Website:

  1. A prototype can be built in a fraction of the time it takes to build Web pages from a static Wireframe
  2. Prototypes allow you to test different page layouts and quickly agree on the most effective version
  3. Prototyping throws up details that are often “assumed” in Wireframing, and allows teams to remove these potentially costly assumptions in favour of agreed functional requirements
  4. Prototypes have working navigation so UX (User Experience) teams can test versions and agree on the most customer friendly navigation routes and interactive elements
  5. Prototypes confirm functional requirements in great detail and make it easy to favour or dismiss CMS platforms based on technical merit. Great if you’ve got a designer who claims he can build your multi-template, interactive booking Website with integrated checkout and sophisticated client area in WordPress!
  6. Some Prototyping programs print a detailed technical specification and this allows you to secure design & build quotes on an accurate like-for-like basis with zero assumption or potentially fatal interpretation
  7. Changes to designs are quick to establish in a Rapid Prototype so you can remove potentially costly reworks down the line
  8. Unlike Wireframes, which can scare people off because you have to think quite hard about how the concept will work in a real site, Rapid Prototypes are customer friendly, even for the most technophobic of clients
  9. Most Prototype programs are Web based so multiple team members can access the content, add notes or directions, then monitor the results
  10. Prototyping at the front end of a project will guarantee to save you time and money down the line

Prototyping typically goes through 4 stages, and this is duplicated when creating Responsive Design versions of the main Website that are intended for Smart Phones:


Sketch Designs

Some experienced UX Designers will plan the main pages of a Website as a hand drawn sketch first.

These people are experienced enough to get layouts on paper, backed up by supporting materials such as audience profiling, persona creation, focus groups, hypercard stacking and experience maps.

Rapid Prototyping - Initial Sketch Designs


Low-Fi Version

The Low-Fi (Low-Fidelity) version of the Prototype has the navigation set up and templates for the main pages. These pages are usually made up of grey blocks and subtle notes to indicate what is going where.

The Low-Fi version will be created in full scale, with working navigation, and will cater for the requirements of Responsive Design if specified.

Straight away, client and agency team members can begin collaborating.

Rapid Prototyping - Low-Fi Version


Med-Fi Version

The Low-Fi version is duplicated in a flash and we now start to add graphical elements using stencils and widgets.

Complex features such as pop-up interactions can be added so clients can start to get a real feel for how design and functional elements will play out.

Rapid Prototyping - Med-Fi


Hi-Fi Version

The Hi-Fi (High Fidelity) version is as real as the proposed Website.

Hi-Fi Prototypes include design compositions, real images, buttons, graphics, real text and even the information you need for SEO. They can also include custom components made with HTML, CSS or JavaScript.

Ideas are shared and discussed, feedback can be pinpointed and incorporated, buy-in can be approved from stakeholders and the best news of all is that everything is available from a single login protected repository, so there’s no trying to keep track of Email threads and attachments across several different locations.

Rapid Prototyping - Hi-Fi

Below: Comparison between Med-Fi and Hi-Fi version of a smart phone plan

Rapid Prototyping - Med-Fi to Hi-Fi for Smart Phone


So Why Bother With Rapid Prototyping? Isn’t This Just Adding To the Cost?

Unless you are planning a very simple Website with basic functionality, Rapid Prototyping can save you a fortune and even protect your project from potential failure in a number of areas.

  • Prototyping represents about 15%-20% of project cost but here are 5 top ways in which Rapid Prototyping will save you time, stress and money in the end:
  • A specification derived from a Rapid Prototype will help you rule out a CMS platform that might not be powerful enough or scalable enough to manage your life cycle requirements
  • Use the specification as part of your RFP (Request for Proposal) and benchmark vendor quotes accurately – none of this one price of £5k, one of £20k and one of £50k, all for supposedly the same service. Help your vendors quote on known factors with assumption taken out of the equation
  • Helps you agree on changes before the system goes to production, so you can cut out Feature Creep and Change Requests. These beauties drive more projects into financial dispute and relationship breakdown than any other event
  • Speeds up the planning and development process so you actually save money overall
  • Removes the headache and stress that is commonplace in projects that don’t use Rapid Prototyping.


About the author:

Philip Allen is the Studio Director at D. and a UX and Drupal Design Consultant. He works hands-on with every project that comes through the agency and champions the case for discovering the truth behind the way users need to interact with Websites.

If you’d like to talk to Phil, get in touch via the Contact Us page or give him a ring on UK: 0844 544 9553 or INTL: +44 (1) 202 546762.


inFUSed Group Wins Four Enterprise Challenge Awards Including Overall Company of The Year

inFUSed Group Wins

inFUSed Group, the company created by students from Ferndown Upper School as part of The Enterprise Challenge achieved a virtual clean sweep at the 2013 final award ceremony this week.

The company, led by young Managing Director Dom Keeyley and his team, achieved success in the following categories:

  • Overall Company of The Year 2013 
  • Sales & Marketing Award
  • Finance Award
  • Managing Director Award

inFUSed Group was set up with sponsorship funding from mwa Digital and sixteen other businesses in the region.

A regional business leader mentors each group of students throughout the process and recognition also goes to Danny Godfrey, CEO at Renewable Energy Company The Warmer Group who inspired the students to success.

We would like to congratulate everyone who contributed to the cause and of course hats off to Dom and his board of budding entrepreneurs’ for a great achievement.

What is ’The Enterprise Challenge’?

The Enterprise Challenge is an initiative to help develop an entrepreneurial culture in local Schools with the intention of enhancing employability for our next generation.

Managed by the Enterprise & Skills Company in association with local businesses, the Enterprise Challenge is open to Years 10 and 11 in school, and Years 12 and 13 out-of-school.

Students are given the opportunity to make and sell real products to real people for real money using a company they have formed with the assistance of a local business mentor.

The project lasts for 16 weeks and concludes with a competition to find the ‘Company of The Year’, where students need to make presentations to a judging panel consisting of local business professionals.

The outcome is designed to nurture the skills required for success in education, employment, lifelong learning and personal development.

What does the program consist of?

As part of the process of creating a business, students appoint directors, name and brand their company, and decide on how to raise starting capital.

The newly formed company designs and manufactures an innovative product or products to sell at local Christmas trade fairs, defining their companies’ success by creating opportunities and meeting deadlines.

Students will also be responsible for the marketing, finance, sales and IT of the company.

Post Christmas, teams work towards a final company report (reflecting final accounts) and a professional 5-minute PowerPoint presentation.

Each company will compete against the other student companies in the Enterprise Challenge to win the coveted Bournemouth University ‘Company of the Year Award’, as well as many other sponsored trophies.

The program concludes with a dazzling showcase of talent judged by prominent local business people.

inFUSed Group Wins

How Working With Monkeys Can Help You Nail That Home Page Elevator Pitch

Networking - How to Prepare a Networking 1 Minute Pitch by Dee Clayton

"How to Prepare a Networking 1 Minute Pitch" by Dee Clayton

Constructing your Home Page Elevator Pitch can be a real challenge.

For those of you not familiar with the term, an Elevator Pitch is what you say in about 10 seconds when someone says, “What do you do?”

In a sales promotion or networking environment, this actually translates to, “What do you do and should I be bothered?”

The relevance to digital is of course your Elevator Pitch ‘should’ be what grabs a users attention when they land on your Website Home Page.

If you tackle this task without getting your foundations right, it can be a painful experience.

Everything you seem to want to say about your business has been done by your competition and nothing seems to really define why you are different.

It’s all too easy to slip into industry speak, cliché, gibberish, and in the case of one project I saw go live recently, the company bowed out completely and decided to tell people what it ‘didn’t’ do instead of what it did do.

I didn’t know whether to put that one down to a lack of faith, insecurity or just bad advice.

So in the absence of a full-blown persona creation and message strategy, I came across a great resource from an award-winning presentation skills and public speaking coach that could really help you.

Dee Clayton is the author of ‘Taming Your Public Speaking Monkeys’, a book written to help people deal with Public Speaking and become more engaging presenters.

She is also an ex-marketer, although in my book good marketing is a state of mind so once a marketer always a marketer I’d say.

Dee has always worked frontline on the agency side with big brands so she knows all about creating a value proposition and increasing purchasing intent.

Her latest freebie is a great guide called ‘How to Prepare a Networking 1 Minute Pitch’, and you can download it completely FREE right here.

You don’t even have to register or dump your Email address in to get it.

It’s a 4-page PDF document based on Four Simple Steps and examples along the way.

Although the guide is written to help with networking and yes you won’t keep new visitors to a Website glued to the Home Page for a full minute, its really easy to see how you can pull elements of your 1-minute wonder back into bytes for your Home Page Elevator Pitch.

Let me know if helps, and if you have problems with Public Speaking Monkeys, Dee is really good with that as well.


How a Blog Can Support Your Sales Goals

According to Wikipedia, there are over 156 million Blogs on the Internet providing information on just about every subject you can imagine.

If you consider that there are over 324 million Websites (based on a May 2011 survey by Netcraft), you can quickly see how valued Blog content is across the globe.

The term ‘Blog’ is commonplace in every conversation about marketing, so why are some businesses still cautious about implementing a Blog, and why is it now considered a mission critical part of the communications strategy?


Here are a few useful stats I’ve collected to help explain the scale of Blogging and related Social Media activity. You can also launch these statistics as an Infographic:

  • B2B companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms. (Source: Social Media B2B)
  • 77%  of buyers say they are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO uses Social media, and,
  • 82% of employees say they trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team communicate via Social Media (Source: eMarketer)
  • 92% of Blog users who posted multiple times a day acquired a customer through their Blog. This decreased to 63% for those who blogged monthly and 43% who blogged less than monthly (Source: Marketing Charts)
  • 60% of bloggers post weekly,10% of bloggers post daily (Source: Marketing Charts)
  • Blogs are the single most important inbound marketing tool according to 81% of blog business blog operators polled. 25% of blog operators rate their company blog as critical to their business, whilst 56% considered their blog either important or useful (Source: Marketing Charts)


The Changing Face of The Sales Process and Why a Blog Can Help

We’ve known for some time now, that the buying process has seen its biggest swing since businesses first started paying attention to how people buy products and services.

The case for talking at your customers with conventional sales messaging versus engaging them in conversation is nothing new, but the gravity of this argument is quickly becoming apparent.

The Harvard Business Review published the results of a very important study this year to show that a customer is likely to be 70% of the way through his or her buying decision ‘before’ they bring a company in to discuss their requirements.

Just think about that for a minute.

If you assume a prospect will bring in three companies for comparison, you only have a 1 in 3 chance of being the company that the prospect feels most comfortable dealing with.

If they bring in 5 companies then your odds drop to 20%.

This means that your Leads are now not quite as HOT as you might think they are.

This scenario came up recently when I was discussing marketing tactics with a client in Renewable Energy.

As soon as I brought this subject up, the Sales Manager jumped in:

“That’s so true. Things have changed this year completely. Before people expected me to promote products, nowadays they are telling me what products they want because they’ve read up all about them on the Internet. Selling is getting much harder.”

In essence, selling has changed dramatically in the last few years because technology has empowered us with the means to take control of the buying process.

We no longer need to buy on impulse, and in fact we have become highly resistant to any process or communication that attempts to do it.


Here’s How Selling Used To Work:

  1. A salesman wants to sell you a product
  2. The salesman establishes wants and needs so he can claim that buying the product will satisfy those wants and needs
  3. Something always gets in the way such as timing, budget, or is it a need or is it a nice to have
  4. Because of this, the process needs a strong close
  5. Closing of course is nothing more than coercion and manipulation

Whilst all this is going on, the customer has very little chance to establish the reputation of your company, build any trust or see credibility in anything you offer.

Here’s how things work now:

  1. You don’t need to take an approach from a salesman because it’s probably not what you want.
  2. You’ve got better things to do at the moment, and when you do want to buy something you now have the tools to do it on your own terms.
  3. You know you have the biggest research tool on the planet at your disposal and that’s the Internet. All you have to do is fire up a browser and type in a question or a product name and the world comes straight to your computer screen

In fact on Google alone, we do this across the globe 4,717,000,000 times on average every day.

But here’s the deal:

92% of these searches fall into the first two, of three known phases of search.

People are either looking for inspiration relating to a particular subject, or are looking for ways to define their own objectives more accurately.

Only 8% of key phrase driven searches are from people looking to buy a specific product, service or solution.


Changing the Focus of Your Marketing Activity

It’s clear from the changing trends and supporting statistics that we have a new set of goals if we are to excel at marketing:

  • Engage prospects when they start looking for inspiration
  • Foster an environment of trust, credibility and reputation
  • Keep the conversation going until the time is right for them to buy
  • Ensure that when a prospect calls you in, they are 70% of the way through the process of buying from ‘your company’ and not any of your competitors
  • Understand that the “close” begins as far back as the first time a prospect comes across any communications collateral relating to your company.


10 Reasons Why a Blog Can Support Your Sales Goals

  1. People don’t have to find your Website to find your Blog
  2. People will arrive at your Blog posts because someone they trust either referred them, or the content came up when they were refining their Internet search terms
  3. Your Blog posts won’t be selling anything, so the reader won’t have any barriers up when they arrive
  4. Your Blog posts will contain real answers, to real problems
  5. Your Blog posts will empower the reader with even more knowledge
  6. Readers can share your Blog posts with their colleagues to generate opinion
  7. Because you helped them achieve this you will appear credible
  8. Because you appear to be a useful centre of important knowledge and information, you have an instant reputation
  9. Because of your credibility and reputation, people will trust you
  10. Because people trust you, they will value your opinion when they get to a more advanced stage of the buying process


A Blog as Part of The Marketing Mix

If your Website is the centre of your promotional world, your Blog can be the centre of your engagement world.

Here are 12 things you can do with a Blog:

  1. Encourage people to make comments to engage them in conversation
  2. Capture their Email address for follow up marketing
  3. Give them an RSS feed so they receive updates and new posts automatically
  4. Feed your posts straight to Facebook
  5. Feed your post titles straight to Twitter
  6. Feed your posts straight to LinkedIn
  7. Create links to different parts of your main Website
  8. Turn your Authors into respected experts in their field
  9. Invite posts from leading authorities and industry experts
  10. Generate article Likes and referrals to help Google love you
  11. Add fresh content to your site on a daily basis to help Google love you even more
  12. Get content referred throughout your market in minutes, not weeks or months


Author: Philip Allen is the Studio Director at mwa Digital. He delivers Search Visibility & Engagement Strategies for companies who want to build immersive relationships with their audience.


More Reading:

mBlog v4.0 For Drupal Influenced By Google Blog Eye Tracking

Latest Research Tells Us Don’t Sell Solutions To Problems, Just Sell Products and Services

What Is Content Strategy and Why Does It Matter?


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