With so many organisations embarking on customer-centric digital transformations, how do you go about creating best-in-class experiences through your digital channels?
I covered this topic at Planit’s recent “Adopting a Customer-First Strategy” event in Sydney, which focused on how to embrace customer-centricity to deliver a more engaging experience for digital users. At the event, I was also joined by experts in customer experience and digital accessibility.
Improving the user experience
Steve Jobs once said, “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology, not the other way around”. That sounds relatively straightforward, yet why do so many digital products and services fail?
Jobs was fanatical about his design teams starting with the customer experience and working back towards the technology, and not the other way around. The most famous instance of that in Apple's history is the way the user experience of the iPod was defined versus the rest of the MP3 player market.
Everyone remembers the iPod as “a thousand songs in your pocket”. That’s because the generic “MP3 player” term was banned from use in Apple marketing and communication. It was always about the unique experience of the iPod versus the one offered by generic MP3 players.
User experience (UX) design refers to a person's emotions or attitudes in using a product like a website, app, or service. Good UX design is about ensuring that that person's experiences are satisfying, enjoyable, and valuable.
The way we do that is by developing a deep understanding of users and their motivations, needs, and context of use, and then using that understanding to inform the design of the product.
Successful digital product design is desirable for users, technically feasible to deliver, and viable to the business or organisation. Great product design lives at the intersection of these three domains.
Starting with the user
When implementing human-centred design, you need to go back and look at digital product design and delivery. It needs to be an end-to-end view, stretching from product definition to delivery.
Digital product design and delivery.
You start with the initial product ideas, validating those opportunities through discovery and research to develop a high-the problem you’re solving, before designing a solution and turning that into a development backlog before actually developing, testing, and shipping the product.
This is human-centred design and Agile development working together in digital product design and delivery.
User-centred design approach ensures user’s needs are reflected in the product and service design.
The double diamond section in the middle of the diagram forms the heart of the user-centred design approach. This is where we ensure that user needs are reflected in the design of a product or service.
The first diamond is often described as “designing the right thing”. You start by going wide with discovery and then focusing in on definition.
At this stage, you need to be very clear on the problem you’re solving and for whom. We then use the insights from the first diamond to develop and deliver our product in the second diamond.
There's nothing unique about the double diamond approach. It was originally developed by the British Design Council and has been around for decades. It's good practice and is used by many experience design firms in one form or another.
Success factors in UX design
In addition to the above approaches, we at Folk have identified three areas that we have repeatedly observed as success factors in UX design.
The first is around robust research practice, making sure you get the insights and evidence base you need. The second is sharing findings in a creative format to create a shared understanding among stakeholders, as well as opening up thinking. And lastly, most importantly, is about developing a vision of what a better experience might look like, and then helping the organisation to realise it.
1. Robust research
Some research is always better than none. Even if you’re working in a lean UX environment where you’re making assumptions, and then testing them through research, some research is always better.
There is a plethora of research methods that work across the product design lifecycle. This above diagram is what we use as a reference when we talk about what we might do on a project.
Success here is about understanding what combination of research methods will provide the level of understanding or insight that you need and that's appropriate to the project.
2. Shared understanding
The second principle consists of using the research findings from first step to foster a shared understanding among stakeholders. This goal is to put the focus on users in project discussions, getting people thinking more broadly about the challenges of users, and opening up thinking around the possible solutions.
The key here lies in sharing the findings in a creative and engaging way, and there are many ways to do this. You can create videos out of research, journey maps in interesting formats, personas, or profile sketches, which will help to put a human face to the problem that you’re trying to solve.
3. Future vision
The third principle is about developing a vision of what a better experience might look like. A good way to start of is to think about what an ideal experience might look like, one without the constraints of today's technology, and organisational limitations like time, budget, or legislation.
The aim is to open up thinking about what is possible, and then how a user's problem can be solved by our product or service. Creating a persona-driven narrative, where you think about a better day in the life of a user and tell the story of what that better experience might be, can provide some valuable insights to guide your project to completion and beyond.
Towards a better experience
Transforming ideas into new experiences is a challenging task. However, if you look at the problem from the user’s perspective when solving it, you have an opportunity to create something that can connect more powerfully with your audience.
At Folk, we help our clients create successful digital products or services by better understanding their users, their needs and context of use. We work with Planit to help organisations transform their applications to deliver the quality customers demand and reach a new audience through digital accessibility.