UX, CX, UI, Service design, product design, you name it: we find hundreds of articles defining them, clarifying their scope or even comparing them. This overwhelming information shows these disciplines are thriving now, however, their principles have been for a while among us. Traveling back in history, Leonardo Da Vinci, Henry Ford or Walt Disney, to mention some of them, were early practitioners of these disciplines when imagining and creating objects and processes based on user interaction. No matter how broad or specific these disciplines are, there is a common link among them: experience. Nowadays, users expect businesses to offer smooth journeys across diverse touchpoints we may have with them: in a shop, on a website, on social media, on a mobile app, etc. What is triggering this growing need? In this article, we explore what “design for experience” and give you some tips to put it in practice.
Can we design an experience?
Experiences are intrinsic to each individual; they are subjective by nature. In fact, we cannot design how our clients will experience our products or services. What we can do, instead, is coming up with design that can positively influence that personal, unique experience.
Sure, we commonly use “experience design” or “customer experience design” when referring to these subjects, but we have to bear in mind what we can truly aim for when putting them in practice: we’re designing for experiencing. If you’re planning to rethink the way your clients connect with your brand, consider these 3 key basics.
1) Experience is an outcome, not a deliverable.
2) Designing for your clients is designing for people behind the interactions with your brand. It’s about designing complements to enhance human lives, either personally or professionally.
3) Interactions are, simply put, non-monetary transactions between your clients and your brand(s), at different touchpoints.
The strategic role of designing for experience
The digitalisation of our lives has triggered clients to expect personalised interactions and services. From the continuous development of smartphones features and the option to buy virtually anything online to convenient apps to invest money from our sofas, we expect similar seamless interactions from businesses we’re in contact with. In this context, a remarkable client experience can become a truly advantageous asset as competition intensifies.
It’s important to point out that designing for experience isn’t digitally exclusive although most projects and initiatives applying this approach aim at making technology more user friendly. Either digital or analogic, empathy is the factor gluing any business initiative to design for experience.
If you want your business to be truly client-centred, empathy needs to be a shared value across all areas or departments, especially in those ones clients have direct touchpoints with. By being empathetic (or emphatic) we all better understand the world around us; we remain curious and active listeners to the experiences we want to influence.
Designing for experience has positive side effects. One of them is helping businesses bring down silos and invite them to work collaboratively. After all, your clients live unique experiences with your brand as a whole, not with the areas it’s composed of.
Among various recommendations to take the client experience journey, we have picked up three simple yet actionable ones:
- Question and learn about the people behind each interaction with your brand
- Understand how to engineer the interaction and the potential constraints
- Apply your thoughts, feelings and signature to your work.
What design for experience does not replace
Understanding how design can help overcome business problems or solve clients’ pain points is another positive side effect of following a user-centric approach, but it shouldn’t be considered as a replacement of innovation or brand strategy. When a business invests in innovation, they seek to expand their products or services portfolio. Then, experience design becomes an invaluable complement. Similarly, it can influence the way products and services deliver value in a more intimate way, but it doesn’t overshadow the strategy you follow to develop your brand, what it stands for and its personality.
We all are designers of experiences after all
When we, as clients, get exactly what we expect, we hardly remember the interaction: it’s just “average”. Great experiences really happen when the business value we receive exceeds our expectations.
Experiences are journeys; journeys are full of stories; your clients want their stories with your brand to be memorable and consistent. Aiming for long-term client engagement instead of just adding new clients to the CRM can make your brand stand out.
To guarantee consistency when your clients “experience your brand”, involve not only the design team but also the ones interacting with clients (sales people, the customer service team, the marketing and communication teams, etc.). The design team will take care of user research, prototyping, testing, and co-creating with end users; the later ones will gather valuable information about how users interact with your brand along their journey, how they are actually living their experiences with it.
Five takeaways to design for experience
Consider these recommendations when implementing a user-centric approach to strengthen the connection between you and your clients:
- Place empathy at the core of any problem solving exercise for both internal users or external clients. Remember, you can also design for better experiences internally.
- Become a champion for your client and own its problem.
- When identifying clients’ pain points, be agile: have in place mechanisms to respond quickly to their needs. If you take long, your competitor will likely cover the need you left uncovered.
- Find the balance between what your customers demand as products or services and your business strategy. Don’t miss the focus; the result can be detrimental.
- Involve the board. Ideally, ask them to appoint a board member responsible for advocating for this necessary internal transformation your business need to become client-centric and to answer their increasing demands.
What we think
Digital within organisations usually refers to the use of emerging technologies, automation, new service development, rapid delivery of products at scale. At PwC we think that, to foster true innovation and get prepared to face disruptive challengers, businesses have to break down silos and embrace cross departmental co-creation.
This is how organisations can craft human-centric services, offer enjoyable customer experiences and, ultimately, gain competitive advantage. Design is becoming a strategic investment, as design-centric companies are outperforming market average.