How Can a Cannabis Business
Compete Today Without
a Professional Presence?

Most cannabis related businesses have no idea how they appear to their market and potential customers.

It’s no surprise that we have become a visual society that demands instant access to information. Which is why it's imperative to keep your savvy customers in mind when developing a company branding.

Some owners will tell you, they just don’t have the time, resources or budget to invest in marketing materials and plan on continuing as they always have. But in today's economy and technology driven age, can your business really afford not to change with the times?

General business and especially Cannabis industry related businesses are currently using an outdated website and/or poorly designed marketing materials which gives their competition a marketing advantage.

Let’s face it, word-of-mouth used to be the best form of marketing, but times have changed drastically. Technology has quickly reshaped the way we do business in the industry. Most consumers focus on vendors who offer website interaction, a social media presence and professional marketing materials..

Cannabis businesses are being forced to change or risk becoming extinct by those who have invested in marketing and visual branding. In order to compete with other marijuana businesses that offer the same quality of products and services, it is imperative that a they demonstrates a strong professional presence. Lack of a consistent design and company branding reflected across all platforms of media could be detrimental to the business's success.

Surviving in today's market takes having a strong professional online and offline presence, business's brand identity and most importantly, an online business.

Websites Have Become Extinct

The extinction of what websites once were, began only a few years ago. Since then companies who choose not to invest or move forward with today's technologies have sadly begun to fall behind. And their competitors have taken control of the market. Nowadays it is imperative that businesses stand out and be seen by your customers. We give businesses a fighting chance by offering a variety of creative media services.

Our clients hire us to provide insight on marketing tactics and strategies to compete with their business rivals, increase website traffic and generate leads. We are able to direct our attention to our clients business needs and find real world solutions to capture their customers attention. Ck2design can give your business a fighting chance.

Being a Adobe Business Catalyst Premium Partner means Ck2design can offer your company a real online business solution that goes beyond a typical website. Our sites host many tools and applications for building and managing real online businesses. Content Management, Turn-key eCommerce, Customer Database, Built-in Email Marketing, Reporting & Analytic and much more.

We spend time with our clients and learn about them, their business and market to create concepts that translate across multiple types of platforms such as traditional marketing media, online videos, social media networks, photography, graphic design, motion graphics, company identity branding, trade show and events graphics and marketing collateral.

Your company needs a real online business in order to keep up with today's technologies and your competitors. Ck2design can help you get there in full force. Working to find solutions that work best to help your company be as successful as possible with response media online businesses and complete marketing collateral packages custom designed for your specific business.

Survive and thrive in today's market with an online business

To stay relevant in the market be sure your business's website is user-friendly, professional looking, informative, useful and creatively designed. This will help to give your visitor the best possible user experience. And don't forget your marketing materials such as print media, email marketing and video presentations should also reflect the same treatment.   

Wikipedia explains the User experience design (UXD or UED) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.

Elements of user experience design
User experience design includes elements of interaction design, information architecture, user research, and other disciplines, and is concerned with all facets of the overall experience delivered to users. Following is a short analysis of its constituent parts.

Visual Design
Visual design, also commonly known as graphic design, communication design, or visual communication, represents the aesthetics or look-and-feel of the front end of any user interface. Graphic treatment of interface elements is often perceived as the visual design. The purpose of visual design is to use visual elements like colors, images, and symbols to convey a message to its audience. Fundamentals of Gestalt psychology and visual perception give a cognitive perspective on how to create effective visual communication.

Information Architecture
Information architecture is the art and science of structuring and organizing the information in products and services, supporting usability and findability. More basic concepts that are attached with information architecture are described below.

In the context of information architecture, information is separate from both knowledge and data, and lies nebulously between them. It is information about objects. The objects can range from websites, to software applications, to images et al. It is also concerned with metadata: terms used to describe and represent content objects such as documents, people, process, and organizations.

Structuring, organization, and Labeling
Structuring is reducing information to its basic building units and then relating them to each other. Organization involves grouping these units in a distinctive and meaningful manner. Labeling means using appropriate wording to support easy navigation and findability.

Finding and Managing
Findability is the most critical success factor for information architecture. If users are not able to find required information without browsing, searching or asking, then the findability of the information architecture fails. Navigation needs to be clearly conveyed to ease finding of the contents.

Interaction Design
There are many key factors to understanding interaction design and how it can enable a pleasurable end user experience. Building a great user experience requires interaction design to play a pivotal role in helping define what works best for the users. High demand for improved user experiences and strong focus on the end-users have made Interaction Designers critical in conceptualizing design that matches user expectations and standards of latest UI patterns and components. While working, Interaction Designers take several things in consideration. A few of them are:[7]

  • Create the layout of the interface
  • Define Interaction patterns best suited in the context
  • Incorporate user needs collected during User Research, into the designs
  • Features and Information that are important to the user
  • Interface behavior like drag-drop, selections, mouse over actions, and so on
  • Effectively communicate strengths of the system
  • Make the interface intuitive by building affordances
  • Maintain consistency throughout the system

In the last few years, the role of interaction designer has shifted from being just focused on specifying UI components and communicating them to the engineers to a situation now where designers have more freedom to design contextual interfaces which are based on helping meet the user needs.[8] Therefore, User Experience Design evolved into a multidisciplinary design branch that involves multiple technical aspects from motion graphics design and animation to programming.

Usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.[9

Usability is attached with all tools used by humans and is extended to both digital and non-digital devices. Thus it is a subset of user experience but not wholly contained. The section of usability that intersects with user experience design is related to humans' ability to use a system or application. Good usability is essential to a positive user experience but does not alone guarantee it.

Accessibility of a system describes its ease of reach, use and understanding. In terms of user experience design it can also be related to the overall comprehensibility of the information and features. It contributes to shorten the learning curve attached with the system. Accessibility in many contexts can be related to the ease of use for people with disabilities and comes under Usability.

Human–Computer Interaction
Human–computer interaction is concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them.

Human–computer interaction is the main contributor to user experience design because of its emphasis on human performance rather than mere usability. It provides key research findings which inform the improvement of systems for the people. HCI extends its study towards more integrated interactions, such as tangible interactions, which is generally not covered in the practice of user experience. User experience cannot be manufactured or designed; it has to be incorporated in the design. Understanding the user's emotional quotient plays a key role while designing User Experience. The first step while designing the user experience is determining the reason a visitor will be visiting the website or use the application in question. Then the user experience can be designed accordingly.

User experience design incorporates most or all of the above disciplines to positively impact the overall experience a person has with a particular interactive system, and its provider. User experience design most frequently defines a sequence of interactions between a user (individual person) and a system, virtual or physical, designed to meet or support user needs and goals, primarily, while also satisfying systems requirements and organizational objectives.

Typical outputs include:

  • Site Audit (usability study of existing assets)
  • Flows and Navigation Maps
  • User stories or Scenarios
  • User segmentations and Persona (Fictitious users to act out the scenarios)
  • Site Maps and Content Inventory
  • Wireframes (screen blueprints or storyboards)
  • Prototypes (For interactive or in-the-mind simulation)
  • Written specifications (describing the behavior or design)
  • Graphic mockups (Precise visual of the expected end result)

Understanding a Design Problem
Don Norman, author of "The Design of Everyday Things", talks about how a good designer should have the knack of finding what the real problem is.

In a interviews Luke Swenson of UX Magazine, Don states: "One of the important skills a good designer brings to the table is figuring out what the real problem is. Most designers fall prey to this. The client says what they want, what they want to achieve, and then the designer comes up with a solution, but they never really ask whether or not that’s the actual underlying problem. If you dig a little deeper for the fundamental problem, your research can lead to creative and innovative solutions, sometimes completely eliminating the original problem.

Designers should understand whether their design is going to solve a problem that people are facing in their day to day activities. They should aim to solve a problem that's worth solving. Designers can know that they are solving a problem if people are frustrated and already spending money on solving the problem. [11]

Contextual Design
The Contextual Design methodology was developed by Karen Holtzblatt and Hugh Beyer. It is design process which uses field data to understand user's behaviour and actions. The designer observes the user in its natural setting. He may conduct one-on-one field interviews in the user's work space and observe his on-going activities. The reason behind doing this is to encounter the problems that users face on a daily basis, or the things that frustrate the users, for which designers can design a solution. [12]

Affinity Diagramming
The affinity diagram organizes a large number of ideas into their natural relationships. Designers can take the observed field notes from the contextual design process and categorize them into different clusters. The advantage of doing this will be that you can see the different group of observations as different clusters and you can choose which cluster to focus on. It was created in the 1960s by Japanese anthropologist Jiro Kawakita.

General Design Process The steps involved in the process are: 

1. Collecting information about the problem
The UX designer needs to find out as much as he can about people, process and products before the design phase. The designers can do this by meeting with the clients frequently in order to know what the client requirements are. Designers can also conduct user interviews in the users' work space in order to familiarize themselves with the target user base.

2. Getting Ready To Design
This is the artistic phase of the designer. The designer uses paper prototyping and white boarding to come up with a basic design from the data collected about the problem. The design problem is refined in the later stages.

3. Design
Low fidelity design prototypes created in the earlier step are refined. The high fidelity prototypes are left for the visual designers.

4. Test and Iterate
Usability testing is carried out on the low fidelity prototypes. The target users are given various tasks to perform on the prototypes. Any issues or problems faced by the users are collected as field notes and these notes are used make changes in the design and reiterate the testing phase. [13]

UX Specification Documents / Deliverable
The designers accomplish the major goals of designing an aesthetic and usable product that solves the end-users' problems. Communicating the design is a critical part of the design process. You as a designer may have the best design created, but if you cannot communicate it well to your stakeholders and developers, your design will just sink. The UX specification documents will depend on the client or the organization involved in designing a product. The 4 major deliverable are a title page, an introduction to the feature, wireframes and a version history. [14] Depending on the type of project, the specification documents can also include flow models, cultural models, personas, user stories, scenarios and any prior user research. Designing for a product is an important process, but documenting the design decisions in extremely important for communicating design.

Importance of User Research in UX design
User Experience is a process that in the correct terms, begins with UX research and ends with UI design. [15] In the user research phase, you investigate systematically in order to find problems that users face in their work space. It is a step towards understanding the users that you will be designing for. User research is important because designing for a wrong product causes wastage of resources like time and money. There is no point of designing for a product that nobody will use. Another important factor is eliminating assumptions from the design process. If the user research is done systematically, you have enough data to back your ideas in the design process. User research before UX design will save the designers and organizations a lot of money and time.

As with the fields mentioned above, user experience design is a highly multi-disciplinary field, incorporating aspects of psychology, anthropology, architecture, sociology, computer science, graphic design, industrial design and cognitive science. Depending on the purpose of the product, UX may also involve content design disciplines such as communication design, instructional design, or game design. The subject matter of the content may also warrant collaboration with a subject-matter expert (SME) on planning the UX from various backgrounds in business, government, or private groups. More recently, content strategy has come to represent a sub-field of UX.

Graphic Designers
Graphic designers focus on the aesthetic appeal of the design. Information is communicated to the users through text and images. But a lot of importance is given to how the text and images look and attract the users. Graphic designers have to make choices like font color, font type, image locations etc. Graphic designers focus to grab the user's attention with the way the design looks.

Visual Designers
While a graphic designer focuses majorly on the types of graphics and placement of graphics on the screen, the visual designer focuses on the holistic view of the design that can be applicable across multiple platforms. Visual designers, like graphical designers, concentrate on the look and feel of the design and work on how the look and feel can be maintained across different platforms where the design will be deployed.

User Experience Designers
User experience designers focus on how users interact with the design, rather than focusing on the look and feel of the website. User experience designers focus on usability of the design, making sure that the users face as few issues as possible while using the design. They usually create prototypes and blueprints of the design, to understand how users use the design. they are responsible for all the interactions that take place on a design right from basic interactions like clicking on a button.

Testing the Design
Usability testing is the most common method used by designers to test their designs. The basic idea behind conducting a usability test is to check whether the design of a product/brand works well with the target users. While carrying out usability testing, we are testing for two things. Whether the design of the product is successful and if it is not successful, how can it be improved. The designers should remember that while testing, they are testing the design and not the user. Also, every design is evolving. The designers should carry out usability testing at every stage of the design process.

User experience design is integrated into software development and other forms of application development to inform feature requirements and interaction plans based upon the user's goals. Every new software introduced must keep pace with the rapid technological advancements. The benefits associated with integration of these design principles include:

  • Avoiding unnecessary product features

  • Simplifying design documentation and customer-centric technical publications

  • Improving the usability of the system and therefore its acceptance by customers

  • Expediting design and development through detailed and properly conceived guidelines

  • Incorporating business and marketing goals while protecting the user's freedom of choice

The discipline of user experience design, though still in its infancy and without a universally recognized definition, remains subject to criticism. Critics of user experience design argue that:

User Experience Design is a buzzword for an existing best practice, therefore bringing no additional value
A user experience cannot be fully "designed", therefore questioning the validity of the entire practice
A user experience cannot be fully measured, therefore questioning the ROI of the practice

User Experience Compared with Experience Design
User Experience takes into account the feelings people have while using a particular product. These feelings can range from satisfaction to frustration. User Experience Design caters to how products should be designed in order to increase the usability provided in the interaction between the user and the product.