Author Archives: Cyrus A D'silva

Cyrus A D'silva
Cyrus is our Senior Group Manager- Design, with over 15 years of experience. At Robosoft, he has been instrumental in crafting design strategy and delightful UX/UI for several global enterprises. He has worked across diverse categories such as Media & Entertainment, Pharmaceuticals, Retail, BFSI and more.
Retail

The 3 E’s of digital in luxury fashion: experience, expression and emotion

Digital in Luxury Fashion

Ownership of, or association with a certain kind of brand has long been seen as a reflection of one’s identity – whether it’s a car, a phone, club membership or a watch. Fashion brands which encompass personal effects such as clothes, jewelry and accessories are best reflective of one’s personality and even status. In the world of fashion, there is clearly a ‘class divide’ among mass and luxury brands. While there are strong brands with tremendous equity among their target audience in mass market too, what differentiates luxury brands are the experiences they offer, the scope for self expression offered by the brand across touch points and the emotional connect all of these evoke. Hence, the design of digital experiences in this category – beyond just ‘look & feel’ plays a critical role in delivering the brand edge.

Physical or digital: it’s all about the experience

In retail, it is common to list the three most important aspects of success as ‘location, location, and location.’ It is a tongue-in-cheek way of emphasizing the importance of visibility. In the case of luxury fashion brands it can be interpreted as the company a brand keeps – as reflected in such brands choosing a brick & mortar store in the most upscale of malls or localities. The Apple Store is always at locations considered to be the most exclusive location in a city (as in the Fifth Avenue in New York city, Regent Street in London or the Dubai Mall in Dubai) or the most ‘coolest’ one (such as the Grand Central Station in New York). Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s former SVP of Retail said, “We want to be more like a town square, where the best of Apple comes together and everyone is welcome”.

 

 

In Paris, the Triangle dOr is a fashion district where Avenue Montaigne, Ave George V, and Avenue des Champs-Élysées have outlets of several luxury brands. Such efforts help in creating an air of exclusivity – cueing that these brands are for a select, affluent few. But beyond location, successful brands in luxury fashion make the destination an experience to cherish. It could be through the décor, display of merchandise or the personalized customer service.

In the digital world, there are certain points of difference compared to traditional retail. Firstly, a website or an app can technically be accessible to everyone. Second, luxury fashion brands have the scope to be seen in the vicinity of mass market brands in platforms such as Instagram. Earlier, a print ad for a Rolex or Chanel can be shown only in a certain kind of magazine. But in the digital world such ‘gated’ experiences are not always possible in a consumer’s social media feed. Hence, the experience at every touch point in the digital world has to be carefully crafted to match the brand values and exude an air of exclusivity.

 

Rolex

 

Moreover, in the digital world upmarket brands were targeted more at an older demographic. However, the new luxury buyer is younger and savvier than ever. The common thread is that experience matters – be it seamless discovery on the website, a personalized shopping experience in an app or initiatives which satisfy the need to indulge in immersive experiences. Another common factor in these initiatives is the use of a range of emerging technologies.

H&M, the European fashion brand, has launched an immersive experience in the metaverse through online gaming platform Roblox. They have created H&M Loooptopia, which lets players design virtual garments and interact with fellow designers.

 

Loooptopia by H&M

 

Nike, the world leader in sportswear has reinvented itself as a digital-first, D2C brand. After acquiring the NFT platform RTFCKT, Nike is targeting the Web3-curious audience, who can not only buy Nike NFT shoes and apparel, but also co-create designs and share Nike’s revenue using blockchain. And if there was a doubt about how this adds to the bottom line, consider this – a pair of Cryptokicks (virtual sneakers) designed by artist Takashi Murakami was bought for $134,000.

Artificial Intelligence has found use in analyzing customer data to improve personalization and the shopping experience aside from being useful in inventory management and forecasting trends. Virtual and augmented reality technologies enable several clothing, furniture and eye-wear brands offer virtual try-ons both at the physical store and on their website & apps.

Fashion as self-expression in the digital world

In March 2022, brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger took part in the Metaverse Fashion Week hosted by Decentraland. Gucci launched Gen Z-focused platform Gucci Vault where it plans to host immersive experiences in the metaverse.

 

Dolce & Gabbana and Tommy Hilfiger

 

The intent is to enable consumers to explore and buy physical and digital goods. Consumer interest is apparent: new report from BoF Insights reveals that: approximately 70 percent of US general consumers (Gen-Z to Gen-X) rate their digital identity as important and 50 percent are interested in purchasing a digital asset in the next 12 months — whether a digital skin or other item in gaming, digital fashion, digital avatar and/or an NFT. Another survey, found five primary reasons why people buy digital fashion: for its long-term investment potential, to feel a sense of belonging, to access a particular brand through ownership, to kit out a virtual avatar and, finally, to be able to create a sense of self in a virtual setting.

In the recent past, ‘brand purpose’ has become an important aspect to consider for enterprises. It refers to a higher-order purpose for the business to exist and often involves association with a cause with a do-good benefit to society. A major trigger for such comes from the belief system of millennials and Gen-Z generation. In fashion too, younger consumers seek brands with cultural credibility. The manifestation is in seeking luxury brands that are timeless, build emotional connection, be worn by opinion leaders and by consumers’ social circles, and have social responsibility.

When crafting a digital experience, brands must take cognizance of these tenets in order to create affinity.

‘Engineering’ emotions: at the intersection of tech & design

Steve Jobs famously said that ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works’. A design system is made up of colors, typography, iconography and the tone of voice in which a brand wants to have a dialogue with the end user. It becomes extremely important to achieve the right balance of all of the above to in order to make everything ‘just work’. Typography plays important role in such premium experiences. Different fonts and font sizes can bring the look-feel and help in highlighting the most important statements. The rule of thumb here is to not exceed two fonts and six font weights. Along with the fonts, the copy needs to be crisp, meaningful, contextual and owing to the tone of voice for consistent experience throughout.

Other notable aspects of luxury fashion is creating a sense of mystique around the brand
– an aura, as it were, to make it more appealing. In every decision we take is driven by the emotional brain, though many believe that it’s the rational brain which guided them.

Evoking the emotional appeal is even more important with luxury fashion as very often it is an irrational purchase. One may wonder at the reason-why some pay an exorbitant amount for a watch when what it does – display time can also be done by a far cheaper brand. But as we said earlier, a mix of reasons are at play – a display of one’s self-identity, self-worth and an expression of one’s style.

Copywriting for websites or UX writing for mobile apps have to account for such nuances in luxury fashion. Richard Mille, an upscale watch describes itself as ‘A racing machine on the wrist’. It is not an ordinary watch but describes itself as: ‘Diminutive marvels of technology, painstakingly produced in limited quantities, Richard Mille timepieces are designed specifically for those with a true appreciation of fine watchmaking’. Its heritage is eloquently brought alive with this statement:

‘The brand has one foot in the 19th century—because we are faithful to the great Swiss tradition of horology, with extremely complex movements assembled and finished by hand—and the other foot in the 21st century.’

~ Richard Mille

Richard Mille

 

Larger grids and compelling visuals evoke a craving in us.

Even what is considered to be mundane – the product description has to be written in a manner that justifies or feeds the rations brain even though the purchase maybe simply led by ‘I want it’ feeling. A product description from Dolce & Gabbana bag says:

Iconic style is being given some contemporary edge, creating a new vision of the brand’s signature aesthetic. Defined by its refined geometric lines, this new medium shopper pays tribute to our Logo, the undisputed star of the new collection. Practical and spacious, it comes in 100% calfskin and features the quilted 3D-effect DG logo.

Keeping the user journeys short and simple is another aspect that designers should focus on. Menus in the navigation should be minimal and user journeys have to be designed in such a way that within not more than two clicks a user should be able to achieve the desired task.

In sum, crafting digital experiences for any brand is about understanding the consumer needs and making their lives simple – allowing them to complete their tasks intuitively and seamlessly. In the case of luxury fashion brands, the exclusivity factor is an important one to consider along with that of individual expression. Hence the coming together of design, copywriting, visual imagery and tech has to be evolved, sophisticated and compelling to drive a strong brand affinity.

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Customer Experience Design Thinking UX/UI

Prototyping for Designers

Good design’s not about what medium you’re working in. It’s about thinking hard about what you want to do and what you have to work with before you start.  – Susan Kare

Prototype is the stage where you build a representative model of your solution to validate its viability and experience. It can also help identify what is working and what the weak links are. In this article, we will outline some basics of prototyping, how to create and use them.

What is Prototyping?

Prototyping manages the process of creating solutions for the end-user without even having to look at the final product. With Low, Medium & High fidelity prototypes, one can easily picture an entire flow of how the user journey will look like. All this helps in conveying the look and feel of the final product.

What is Prototyping

How does it help?

Prototyping is one of the most important steps in the design process. It saves time, effort and cost on a project to validate a hypothesis and ascertain that the product design is in the right direction.

Before a final output is ready and the project is conceptualized. Prototyping helps designers bridge the gap between a conceptual and an actual product.

For designers

For designers, the mode of prototyping they choose varies from project to project. For instance, if there is a quick approval needed even a hand sketch (Low fidelity prototype) will do the job. But if the journeys and flows are extensive a high-level prototype is a must. It helps clear doubts with respect to user journeys, flows and IA (Information Architecture). A designer must have total control over the tools they use, for an excellent output.

For developers

A detailed prototype can help developers visualize a flow from start to end and quickly understand the roadblocks or the enablers that can help smoothen the app or web development. Developers can also recognize the challenges well in advance with a detailed prototype. Additionally, there are many other aspects, such as API availability, asset requirements, and basic structure of the page that a detailed prototype can help developers to be prepared with.

When to use Prototypes?

The prototyping phase is the testing ground – this is where the transition happens from being dogmatic to being experimental.

In its basic form, a prototype is an expression of design intent. Prototyping allows designers to present their designs and see them in action. In the context of digital products, a prototype is a simulation of the final interaction between the user and the interface. Depending on what a product team needs a prototype to do, it can simulate an entire app or just a single interaction.

When to use Prototypes?

The fidelity of a prototype refers to how it conveys the look-and-feel of the final product (i.e. visuals, content and interactivity)

An important aspect that should be mentioned here is that anybody can prototype. It is not something that needs to be restricted to a designer only.

Paper mockup

For creating a prototype, we can start with something as basic as a paper mockup. It is inexpensive, fast, and collaborative. A paper prototype can be first ideated on a whiteboard with all stakeholders and then sketched out on paper – it’s that simple.

This method does have its drawbacks though, like limited interactivity and uncertainty during testing, but it suffices for a preliminary test.

Monotone mockup

You then have the monotone mockup which can be static or interactive. An interactive mockup can also include the key transitions.

A designer can be the best judge for deciding the type of prototype that can be created basis what will appeal to the users and project stakeholders. Of course, time is of essence here.

High-fidelity prototypes

The high-fidelity prototypes on the other hand embody the brand, have a corresponding look and feel, clear call to actions, and continuity. These obviously have their own perks, of easy buy-in from and the decision makers, testability of specific functionalities, and richer feedback from users. However, they come with a high-cost implication and time factor.

Process from Wireframes to Clickable Prototypes

Wireframes are created in the early stage of the process and made before the visual design phase. Here the designers pay more attention to usability and functionality rather than aesthetics.

Process from Wireframes to Clickable Prototypes

Clickable Prototypes – Low & High Fidelity

A clickable low fidelity prototype is simple to create and has no interactions to showcase the user journey. High fidelity prototypes are easier to understand, with animations, micro-interactions, gestures, fully loaded content, almost equivalent to a final product.

Clickable Prototypes - Low & High Fidelity

Image source

There are several tools that will help build these high fidelity prototypes with features that help you animate your project the way you want. A few software products used by designers are detailed further.

Top 5 Prototyping Tools

Sketch

Sketch is one of the most popular and efficient prototyping tool for designing Web Interfaces and Mobile Apps. Create minimal and clutter-free designs.

Platform: Mac OS X

Adobe XD

Adobe XD is a perfect tool for UD designers. Easy switching between design and prototype. Also has Voice-enabled feature to create prototypes with voice.

Platforms: Android, iOS, Mac OS X and Windows

Invision

Invision can be used via sketch or other design tools using plugin CRAFT. Designers can quickly create mood boards, Design Systems, and Style Guides. Adapts design from WEB Responsive to Mobile.

Platforms: Mac OS X, Windows and Web Browser

Marvel

Marvel is both Web-based and Mobile app prototyping tool. Through the app, you can convert hand sketches into prototypes. It supports PSD, Sketch files to further work on within Marvel.

Platforms: Mac OS X, Windows and Web Browser

Figma

Figma is the first interface tool to have a collaboration feature. It is an entirely Web browser based tool. Create and present the design in the same tool.

Platforms: Mac OS X and web Browser

Conclusion

Gone are those days when wireframes were created on paper, today prototyping is a must before embarking on the journey of design and development of digital products. Lovely animations and interactions add to the wow factor and help bring a faster buy-in from stakeholders on the concept.

Designers can pick the tool that suits them, as there is no perfect prototyping tool that can be called the “best” from the list. Every tool has its own pros and cons and every day there are new updates to existing and new tools that are launched and marketed differently.

The choice of a prototyping tool depends entirely upon the nature of the project. It is finally about picking the right tool for the right requirement based on the project.

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