This is part 2 in an ongoing series.
In the development of customer-facing products, apps, displays, and destinations, businesses often miss what are among the most critical elements for true customer engagement: evoking a desired experience and sentiment.
Businesses tend to have a narrow view of customer needs or expectations. And, rather than design to evoke human emotion, journeys are designed with a "mediumalistic" approach, where platforms and devices take precedence over the human connection or aftereffect. Products, pages, profiles, and entire click paths are narcissistic by design, taking into account the needs of decision makers and stakeholders over the customers they’re designed to entice. The need to plug into trends trumps the opportunity to innovate and improve the customer journey.
In addition to taking mediumalistic approaches, businesses fall victim to what I refer to as creative endowment. This is a phenomenon in which creative professionals bestow their ideas for campaigns where technology becomes the stage for imagination, without regard for the customer experience. Instead, these ideas, no matter how brilliant, are thrust upon customer senses—what they see, hear, and touch—for the sake of executing an idea rather than evoking a sensation or designing an outcome. Regardless of the medium, this isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon. But, it is a problem.
There is a cure to creative endowment, however. To demonstrate this point, I can’t help but think back to the Mad Men episode where Don Draper presented his touching concept for Kodak’s new wheel, "The Carousel."
In a dimly lit room and in a vulnerable voice, Draper took us on a touching journey: "Technology is a glittering lure, but there is the rare occasion where the public can be engaged at a level beyond flash…if they have a sentimental bond with the product."
Draper told the story of his first in-house advertising job at a fur company and how his coworker, a copywriter named Teddy, explained the importance of combining "what’s new," with emotion, "He also talked about a deeper bond with a product. Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. Switch it on...Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means, 'the pain from an old wound.' It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone."
Nostalgia, indeed, is a potent play. In this gripping scene, Draper doesn’t push a creative idea for the sake of the idea; instead he takes technology and makes it human. He makes it so human, in fact, that as you watch the scene, it becomes intimate, and it becomes personal. As such, you’re reminded of your cherished memories, and for that moment, your experience joins the confluence of emotion, brand, and technology.
Here’s the important part: That scene—or, let’s pretend that was really the campaign Kodak considered—was designed to do just as I described. And, that’s the point. That campaign as conveyed would take center stage where technology, media, design, and the overall experience would be designed to evoke emotions and trigger a desired effect, in any network or any platform or device.
The ConflUX of Technology, Creative and Emotion
Whitney Hess is a user-experience strategist. It is her viewpoint that I appreciate as it aligns with what I believe to be the secret ingredient to engagement…empathy. Hess concludes that empathy builds empires. And in her presentation, "Design Principles: The Philosophy of UX," she shares something that is so profound, it serves as the very essence that most organizations miss in their engagement strategies: "User Experience is the establishment of a philosophy about how to treat people. Visual Design is the establishment of a philosophy about how to make an impact."
In her article for UX Magazine, "Guiding Principles for UX Designers," Hess outlines 20 guiding principles that pave the way for frictionless engagement.
I’ll share 11 now and more later in the series...
- Stay out of people’s way…provide an efficient experience.
- Create a visual hierarchy that matches people’s needs.
- Limit distractions and choices.
- Provide strong information scent.
- Provide signposts and cues.
- Provide context.
- Use constraints appropriately.
- Make actions reversible.
- Provide feedback during the experience…design is not a monologue, it’s a conversation.
- Make a good first impression.
- Be emotional.
This is the beginning of an important shift where neither technology nor creative will lead the strategy for developing and steering customer experiences. Instead, intention and aspiration become the North Star. Technology and creative merely become the enablers in the delivery of magical experiences and gratifying sentiment.
The JUXtaposition of Empathy and Experience
As Hess says, "empathy build empires." In UX, user experiences are interwoven with absorbing visual design packaged in a journey rich with empathy and desire. For UX to work, for it to mean something, architects must first feel it. See, I believe that effective engagement is inspired by the empathy that develops simply by being human. It takes a holistic approach to truly deliver an empathetic voyage. Design, channels, and devices are not enough. It takes a culture of customer-centricity to feel their challenges and ambitions and what it is that they need or do not know they need. It takes a vision, mission, strategy, and purpose.
Leadership must reimagine the future of customer relationships and not only vocalize it, but express it as a working charter. It requires nothing short of a culture shift to truly appreciate the customer for not only what they can do but also in how they feel.
Like so many things related to technology and new media, champions tend to push a bottom-up strategy. But, my point for this series is to complement the current groundswell by convincing executives and decision makers to lead top-down strategies that covey a vision for what customer experiences should involve. Then, and only then, we can inspire incredible UX to in turn bring that experience to life. Everything starts with defining a vision that articulates the view of the customer journey not just as you see it, but what it is that customer would appreciate, relate to, and value.
Vision is device and platform agnostic. But as Mr. Draper reminded us, it’s "delicate, but potent."
Next up: The emotional and cognitive pillars of UX.