Thursday, 7 October 2010

'Change by Experience Design' Approach

All disciplines change continuously, be it management, engineering, medical science, or design. Change is critical and, at the same time, dynamic. It needs to be managed gradually by people in practice. Quality that was once a differentiating factor and a competitive advantage is now a factor of hygiene and is rather expected by default. Similarly, practices such as TQM and Six Sigma that were once central to businesses are still of value but are unable to provide the next big boost.

Businesses have the tendency to think inside-out even when they consider external forces such as market demand and competition. The focus is more on ‘How’ can we better what we are doing in current business practices. Mostly this ‘how’ thinking leads to small refinements and incremental changes only.

We as designers (user experience designers in this case) argue that design is fundamentally different, both by thinking and execution. A design approach needs to impact the ‘how’ thinking of businesses. Design needs to become the centripetal force of an organization to make it think more of ‘What?’ than ‘How’.

Focus on customer needs, not products – Instead of getting into the race to bring new product features to market, companies need to refocus on the needs of their customers. Some of them may want fewer features and yet simple and intelligent stuff.

Understand people and context, not just 'users’ – When we talk about customers, they are more than just 'users’ of a system – users that are defined by segment, roles, knowledge, skills, demographics, etc. We need to see beyond their learned behaviors, mental models, mindset, tasks orientation, etc. and must start looking at other dimensions that can provide a complete picture of a person. This means we must understand that our customers are people with natural behavior and desires affected by beliefs, attitude, expectations, personality, prior knowledge, experiences, and emotions, and more.

Look beyond tasks and explore ‘activities’ – Activities can be task or goal agnostic. For example, entertainment-oriented experience such as watching television is a passive way of consuming content without really a goal-focused task. Unilever ice cream truck can be another such example. This means, designers need to understand the motivations behind activities rather than looking only at the tasks performed. The motivations behind an activity could be social, monetary, emotional, and/or ideological.

Reinforce brand with every interaction, not just by communication – Traditional brand messaging is losing its power to influence consumers and therefore there is a need to expand branding efforts beyond marketing communications, to define how customers should be treated and engaged. This is the reason why some of the traditional creative and branding agencies are either transforming into digital agencies or are losing ground. Brands need to continuously innovate and find newer ways to translate their brand attributes and promises into interactive experiences for their customers.

Customer experience design and delivery is a competence, not a function – Designing great experiences is ain't a designer’s job alone – strategists, technology geeks, subject matter experts, and customers are equally responsible and participative in the entire process. Similarly, delivering great customer experiences cannot be achieved only by a small group of people, rather everyone in the organization needs to be fully engaged in the effort as the impact needs to be made at all levels in an organization, including its core value system.

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