The Digital Designer's Role

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

Most organizations don’t trust people who think. They prefer people who do what they’re told. But a digital vision has never been more important.

Bring a typical manager into an orchard and they will become obsessed with the low hanging fruit, the fruit they can grab now. Say to them that if they just go and get a ladder they can have much more fruit, they will pause, smile, say ‘that’s interesting’ then turn their back on you as they go grab the few remaining low hanging fruit.

The designer’s role is to propose a method that efficiently collects the high-hanging fruit, while also collecting the low hanging fruit. True, this task has never been more difficult, because as the world becomes more complex it becomes increasingly difficult to precisely plan. However, you can still have a broad vision and an understanding of the larger problem that needs to be solved.

The alpha, the beta, the prototype are the way we must go in the digital world but it is the designer’s role to choose what to alpha. If you alpha a shovel when you should have alpha’d a ladder, you’re still going to end up with a digging instrument no matter how many times you iterate.

This is the challenge for digital designers: to have a vision, to know the right direction to travel. It’s so lacking. So much of digital activity today is tactical. "We need an app. We need to be on Twitter. We should do more videos. Let’s buy a search engine. Let’s buy a content management system. We need to do more social. Let’s go responsive. Let’s do more collaboration. Let’s do a redesign." Tactical. Tactial. Tactial. No vision.

Learning Opportunities

Collaboration is just a tactic. You must have a purpose, a clear goal. "We will deliver a better and more unified experience for our customers. We will do this by breaking down internal silos. We are going to, for example, put our digital teams and our support teams together. We’re going to mix them up and give them the same objectives, because we know that support is where most of the customer experience occurs." Then, collaboration between the digital and support teams makes sense. But otherwise it’s just another buzzword, another tactic.

Redesign is rehab for the egos of senior executives. Every couple of years a senior executive feels they should get a promotion or a thoroughly undeserved bonus. They know the website is broken but they have no intention of fixing it. So, they get a snazzy ad agency to put some new ‘not tested on humans’ lipstick on the pig. All the other senior execs go oh and ah at the ‘visually appealing’ new homepage, and, voila, the satisfied exec gets their promotion.

It’s hugely frustrating for web professionals, but we must not despair. These senior execs will slowly die off. Management will eventually be willing to learn how to ‘get it.’ So, we should always be presenting a vision, even though we know that 9-out-of-10 times that vision will be overruled by ego-driven tactics.

You’re right to have a vision. So, stay focused. Stay the distance. Change jobs if you must. But your vision is so essential and it will be rewarded if you stick to the task.

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.

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