February 11th, 2013

Designing experiences

There I was at my desk and pop comes this e-mail about an opportunity to speak at Figaro Digital Marketing Conference for Figaro 21 presentation format. 21 slides 21 sec each slide.  Straight away my head started analyzing just 21 slides, that’s too short! But my heart said ‘wow’ as I have seen presentations that go on and on and all I want to do is switch off. So with the permission of my head and heart I said yes lets go for it.

What about the topic?  
Now that I have said yes, it was time to look for a topic. What should I talk about?  So what has changed? Being on maternity leave for the past few months, I had seen massive changes in my family’s online shopping behavior. We must plan in advance, and be very hands on. Most of our lifestyle activities are managed through online tools and gadgets. The entire Apple product suite is now a big part of our family. Every night my husband and I plan out our weekends, personal and social enjoyments using various gadgets. We now use shared calendar aps, iPad & iPhones to mange our lives weather its grocery shopping or planning our daughter’s 1st Birthday party we are on it.

I decided that this was the very topic that I should present – changing behavior and how as UX consultants we should go about designing for it. Finally “Designing experiences for new age user behavior” was coined as the topic of my talk

Evolving user behavior
So now I have a topic, it was time to build the story. I started off by talking about user behaviour and how it’s evolving. 4-5 years ago online shopping was associated with bargains and cheap deals, but now with access to technology on the go, its not just about saving its much more that that. People are looking for engaging experiences. They are demanding product/experience innovation and are ready to quickly adapt. Busy lifestyle prevents users from frequent store visits as they go online to demand the same experience .

The quality of the online experience has become a big deal for these new age users. They are not only looking for simple solutions, but they are demanding a delightful experience, which is full of inspiration and brand assurance. These users are very fickle and would easily change loyalties. As UX consultants we need to keep up with these ever increasing demands of users..

Standard approach standard results
User experience design has been a buzzword in the industry for quiet some time. More and more businesses are now willing to invest in user experience designers but the overall approach the process takes is potentially flawed. Lets take a look at the processes that many businesses adopt.

This process is very linear, resources work in isolation and have minimal interaction. Its time consuming and often it boils down to what technology can deliver. Technology should be an enabler for creating engaging experiences not a limiter. However in this case, UX consultants usually compromise as their neck is on the line, and the business wants to implement the project in time.

Better process
With changing user behavior, we as UX consultants need to change and evolve. Our design approach should be focused on preferred user behavior not designing within the constraints of rigid processes. We need to go out and get in tune with the users environment, their digital lifestyle and understand their digital needs. Working to a process in isolation produces closed results, which are not inline with the demands of our users.

This process advocates the need for building multidiscipline teams, and getting experts in each area on board at the start of the project. Our job as UX practioners is to add value to the project by enrolling people in the importance of user experience and not just produce meaningful documentation.

In order to get in tune with the external environment activities like store visits, social media analysis, interviews, call centre data, multichannel strategy should be a part of the design method. We can still use practices such as personas, prototyping etc to develop our concepts, however the key objective is to design to behavior. The following picture helps to visualize a multidiscipline approach.

I would like summaries my talk in three points

1. BEST practices NEXT practices
It’s not always about placing the button on the right hand side of the screen, but about considering evolving user needs. There is place for best practices but they are not always appropriate. Sticking to these practices limit our ability to innovate and engage users. As UX consultants we need to strive towards a harmony of function and form, rational and emotional behavior. Constantly redefine best practices.

2. Consider soft KPIs
Changing user experience of your product or service may not always not have a direct impact on your revenues however there will be an indirect impact to the bottom line. Consider soft KPIs, for example customer engagement and loyalty. Engaged customers keep returning to your site and there is a good chance that they will convert in the future.

3. Nurture teams
When we work in isolation we tend to produce a design for an interface, when design within a multidiscipline team we produce a compelling experience design.

Therefore, it is far more valuable to design solutions using a joint team, otherwise there is a risk that individuals will produce quality documentation not necessarily a great experience.

With the document ready it was time to face 400 delegates from various brands and agencies at The Figaro Digital Marketing Conference

The venue chosen for the conference was quiet impressive Royal college of physicians London. Finally it was my turn to get up there and talk. I managed to stick to the 21 sec each slide time limit and thankfully it all went well!

After the talks were over we all had a chance to recover by sipping some hot tea and interact with people from our industry. Where I did get some well deserved kudos from my colleagues ☺

Overall it was a brilliant experience and I look forward of doing more of these talks in the future.
Watch video here

About the author

Mandavi is responsible for creating beautiful and usable user experiences. She is particularly interested in mobile commerce and responsive design.