Experience Design: What It Is and How To Do It
If you want to take your user experience to the next level, these techniques will help you evolve your UX approach into an experience design strategy.
The study and practice of user experience continues to grow and adapt as consumer preferences evolve. Through that progression, the concept of experience design has emerged.
User experience brought empathy to the forefront of UX practices. Today, customer-first design principles and product development strategies are not only common but expected. UX teams are usually responsible for bringing their user research discoveries to the visual designers, interaction designers, UX engineers, content writers, and software development teams to create a cohesive, delightful user experience.
Experience design takes that already robust field of user experience to the next level. Keep reading to discover exactly what experience design is, how it fits in with the existing UX disciplines, and what it means in practice for UX teams.
Experience Design Defined
If all the specialized disciplines within UX are the sand, experience design is the bucket. The fuller your bucket of sand, the bigger, better castle you can build.
Experience design leverages multiple user experience disciplines to focus user experience holistically rather than just the interactive design elements within your product.
Experience design expands UX practices, creating a customized, relevant experience for all who come in contact with your brand and your product. Beyond creating empathetic workflows, experience design considers:
- Location: Does the design speak to your rural user, or does your visual design display images of traffic jams and subways?
- Core values: Are the company’s core values represented in the content and the product, and do they align with your users’ core values?
- Emotions: How do end users feel when purchasing and interacting with your user interface design?
- Senses: Are you engaging with your customers on multiple dimensions?
- Relationships: Do your content and design reflect the length and breadth of the relationship you hope to have with your users?
- Significance: Does your product make your users feel important, valued, and understood?
Experience design is user experience on steroids. It’s a holistic understanding of your users beyond the screen. It’s your company living up to the beliefs and values important to your customers.
OK, you’ve got it. Now how do you do it?
9 Ways To Put Experience Design Into Practice
Throughout the design process, customer experience is at the forefront of every research study, usability test, interaction design decision, and feature implementation. Let’s look at nine techniques to evolve your user experience practices into an experience design strategy.
1. Develop Deep Personas
Gain a deep understanding of your users by building rich personas. Know your persona like you would a friend, and as you work through your product design, speak of your personas by name. After all, your customers aren’t just users — they’re people. Thinking of your users in the familiar terms of a persona keeps them real.
2. Build Customer Journey Maps
From a stranger on the web to a loyal customer, your users travel a specific journey as they interact with your product. Maybe more than one. Understanding the user path from anonymous to actively engaging with your product is critical. Each step along the way, evaluate how your customer got there, where they are going next, how they feel, and what you can do to make them more at ease.
3. Create an Omnichannel Strategy
Once you’ve defined your customer journey map(s), think about the user touch points along the route: web, app, email, social, print, etc. Presenting a consistent experience and brand identity helps your customers feel confident about who you are and what to expect from your company and your product. While you learn to anticipate your users’ needs, they learn they can depend on you for a consistent experience.
4. Keep Accessibility in Mind
There are two aspects of accessibility: communicating with your customers through the right channel and ensuring your message is received.
Learning your customers’ habits and preferred devices helps you participate in their lives when and where it makes sense. That means you might have to build a mobile app or communicate via specific social media channels. An email sent to request survey feedback might be better received at 3 p.m. rather than at 9 a.m. during their morning rush.
ADA compliance is equally important. According to Interactive Accessibility, 18.7% of Americans “have some type of disability.” While that’s less than one-fifth of the population, that number represents 56.7 million current or potential customers for your product. Ensure your message is being received through ADA-compliant fonts and colors, and is accessible to screen readers and other navigational devices.
5. Always Deliver Value
Your email inbox gets filled up just like your customers’. Some emails you take the time to open and at least scan, some you read start to finish, while others go straight to the trash. Each of those three choices is a behavioral response to your perception of the value contained in the email. Experience design goes well beyond email communication though.
Consider in-application alerts, renewal notices, social media posts, or contextual help. Are you using those communication devices to toot your own horn or ask something of the user? Or, are you providing real value in the right place at the right time? Every piece of content or imagery your user sees is part of their experience and must be evaluated as part of your overall experience design strategy.
6. Be Relevant
Part of delivering value is ensuring communication and product features are relevant. If your digital product has a dashboard, make sure alerts and notifications are timed appropriately. Keep key features a click away while pushing lesser-used functionality a little deeper in the product.
The purest form of experience design provides users with customization options based on their needs and how they use the product. One-size-fits-all is great for a rain poncho but not so much for digital experiences.
7. Engage Your Support Staff
Going beyond external communication and in-product engagement, experience design strategies also include knowledge base content, email, chat, and phone support. Your support staff must be as dedicated to evangelizing your experience design strategy as the product team. Customer support tone, message, attitude, and resolution must meet the expectations set by the strategists.
8. Use Multiple UX Specialties
Make good use of as many UX design skill sets as you can. Engage in wireframing and prototyping to get the most out of user testing. Use appropriate UX research methodologies to test your information architecture in new products. Engage stakeholders throughout the graphic design and human-computer interaction decision-making process.
Your experience designer should work in an iterative process with your UI designer and UX designer. Design process decisions need to be researched, built, and validated throughout the life cycle of your product.
9. Think Holistically
While you may live and breathe your product, your customers likely do not. Consider what else is going on in their lives in addition to using your product. Use experience design principles to make your product fit in with those other activities.
Consider where your customers are engaging with your product. As you design, ask the following questions:
- Are they at home or in their place of business?
- Are they enjoying leisure activities or conducting business?
- Are they on a plane or in a taxi, in a city or on a farm?
- What did they stop doing to use your product, and what will they be doing next?
Experience design considers the user from a holistic perspective. You must learn to do this as well.
Creating Technology That Feels Natural
Technology is part of our everyday lives. Experience design means building your technology to fit seamlessly in your users’ daily routine. Your product needs to make your users feel like they’re using a toothbrush rather than making a trip to the dentist’s office.
The Design team at December Labs is ready to help you bring experience design to your next project. Contact us today, and let’s work together to create an experience that will delight your users.