How to drive business value with design principles

 Mat Skitt photo
Mat Skitt Lead Designer
3min read

When building and growing any new business, our thought process is challenged consistently to ensure the proposed course of action delivers a positive impact. While applicable to all parts of a business, these conversations between teams developing new products are a daily occurrence. And no, they’re not always easy.

A designer’s role is to tactically design an experience that delivers benefits for both customer and business. They call on an arsenal of user insights, performance metrics and business strategies to inform what problems need resolving.

Finding the solution is the task that follows. Here is where design principles come into play.

But what are design principles?

They're a set of considerations made when designing a product or service. They can guide a wide range of decisions, from creating an icon set to determining how to handle customer complaints. Design teams widely accept design principles as fundamental to helping them achieve their goals, allowing them to make decisions aligned with driving value and positive impact.

Using design principles delivers value throughout the end-to-end experience a customer can have within a service. This value increases depending on which part is being interacted with.

Using design principles delivers value throughout the end-to-end experience a customer can have within a service.

At 11:FS, we often see evidence of siloed thinking and processes within FS incumbents. Product teams don't talk to each other. Customer Services ask a customer for details they’ve already provided. It doesn’t add up to delivering an enjoyable and valuable customer experience.

Designers use principles to help break down silos. By defining a set of holistic considerations, designers give others the authority and autonomy to make more informed decisions within a framework that ultimately benefits the customer.

Creating principles that deliver impact

Design principles are not always the easiest to come up with. They take time to craft and need buy-in from all necessary parties to be successful in application. Below are some tips on how to make them successful. Let’s call them principles for principles.

Make sure they’re aligned with an overall strategy

Your business should have a long-term purpose that informs its strategy, and in turn, the products and services offered to your customers. Your principles should align with these aspirations. They’re the driving force influencing decisions that power your business impact.

Focus on positive customer outcome

Don't simply state what good product design is. ‘Be user-centric at all times’ should be a given and seen as a mindset. Focusing on outcomes will help your designers make trade-off decisions that positively impact the entire service. For example: 'our customers should never feel at fault' can mean providing more guidance throughout your product or ensuring your messaging never blames the customer.

Apply with flexibility

Design principles should guide and inform decisions - they’re not strict rules. So use discretion when it comes to how firmly they’re applied. The key is to think about the particular context relative to the customer’s overall experience. For example: 'craft interactions that spark delight' isn't necessary for delivering maximum impact when a customer needs to make a complaint.

Design principles should guide and inform decisions - they’re not strict rules.

Make them memorable

At 11:FS, we often find it best to have no more than five design principles - enough to create the necessary guidance framework without being too strict. Plus it makes it easier for your teams to remember. They should be clearly articulated and resonate with your team. We recommend having someone with copywriting skills to craft the final versions. Design principles can follow any structure but we recommend the following:

  • The headline should be easy to remember, have one pertinent quality and be snappy enough to drop into a conversation when discussing a solution.

  • The definition provides clarity as to why a principle exists. Essentially a long-form version of the headline, it strengthens the narrative of driving customer outcomes and is the opportunity to reflect the values and aspirations of your business.

  • The illustration(s) bring the principle to life. Here you can show how different elements such as UI design and Tone of Voice align to the principle and help inspire thinking in the future.

When crafted and applied effectively, design principles help us make better decisions that drive positive, tangible outcomes for customers and businesses alike. Within financial services, the decisions we make when designing products significantly impact people's relationships with their money. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. A more principled approach to problem solving is one step to ensuring that we're building products that drive a positive change.