Concept design done right

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Ida Aalen gave an excellent presentation about concept design process at the CS Forum 2013 few weeks ago that should really be mandatory reading for every concept designer and content strategist.Since everyone couldn’t be at the CS forum, we’ve attached the slides of the presentation and some key highlights from the case study for you to see for yourself. Of course there are thousands of somewhat similar presentations around the internet, but this presentation works nicely as a stand-alone learning material with great visuals and real-life images from the workshops.

North Patrol is a consulting firm specialized in the design of digital services and information systems. We shape ideas into a vision and service concept, find the best architectural and technological solutions, design a functional user experience, and compete to find the ideal partner for implementation work. We do not sell implementation projects, nor do we sell licenses; we are genuinely on the side of the customer.

1 October 2013

Perttu Tolvanen

As a little background, Ida Aalen is a senior interaction designer in Netlife Research in Oslo, Norway. Ida works with user research, interaction design and concept development. She has also written a book on social media in Norway, and previously he has also worked as a journalist in an online newspaper.

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Inspired by the presentation, here is a brief summary of the key things to keep in mind when putting together a concept design for a large website:

  1. Everything starts from setting goals and choosing the target audiences for the website, which can be somewhat different from the general business goals. Ida points out the goals for the website should always be as specific as possible. Setting KPIs is cool, but not always needed.
  2. Choosing top user tasks is the first step in tactical concept design. Researching top user tasks can also be done before the project starts. Great tools for the work are analytics stats, focus groups, surveys and interviews. But in the end, choosing the right tasks is an expert task usually done in workshops.
  3. Find out which top user tasks align with business goals for the website. Choose them as your “ultimate top user tasks”.
  4. Choose core messages or themes for the website. It might be “bring out the people” or “faster self-service”, whatever you think needs yelling out. Choosing core messages should be aligned with the user research findings, but they can also be influenced by the business goals. (Note: Top user tasks should be highly user-driven, but these core messages can be more about business goals.)
  5. Key site sections should have dedicated editors who are responsible for collecting, arranging and publishing the content. Those key editors need to understand the user goals and top user tasks thoroughly. Only this makes sure that the concept will also work after the launch and keeps improving.
  6. Editors need to have a system to decide whether new content goes to the site or not. Not everything should be stuffed to the website even though some business decision maker thinks the content is important. (There is a great example of this kind of criteria in the presentation: slide 79).

Perttu Tolvanen

Perttu Tolvanen is a web concept design and content management system expert.

Perttu consults with clients on project planning and defining requirements, and supports customers in selecting content management systems and implementation partners. His areas of specialisation include facilitating concept design workshops and selecting content management systems.

Perttu has ten years of experience with web and intranet projects, including serving as a project manager and consultant. Earlier in his career Perttu has worked in procurement and as a project manager at a large media company, a content management system consultant at a large IT company and an independent, neutral consultant at his own firm. He is also a well-known seminar speaker and blogger. Perttu is also the editor of, a Finnish blog about the Finnish internet and its creators.


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We are a team of ten consultants, all of whom are experienced designers and technology experts. Every year we design and prepare over 50 different online services and information systems. Our customer satisfaction is very high (9.5 out of 10), and we have helped many customers transform their digital services.

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  • We specialize in digital service design

    We specialize in high-quality design and requirements specification of digital services. Our mission is to help customers succeed in their software project by creating the best possible foundation for implementation – whether it is an agile implementation done inhouse, a project done with a partner, or a publicly tendered project.

  • We don't sell coding or licenses

    Many software companies recommend software solutions that they also implement themselves. We don’t do that. We don’t do software implementation projects or have partnerships with technology providers. Our perspective on the software market is broad, as it should be for our customers. Our goal is always to find the best possible software solution for our customer, whether it’s a custom-built solution, a SaaS service, an open-source platform, or a combination of these.

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    We design digital service concepts, implementation methods and architectures that are sustainable and can be further developed. We place great importance on the feasibility of software solutions, the availability of good partners and the predictability of costs.

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