The success of any brand depends on its ability to inspire consumers with its brand promise. And to deliver excellent performance across every experience point that its consumers have with its products and services. This inherently develops a relationship that is emotional and social. It also evolves as experiences with the brand accumulates which eventually translates to the brand’s performance. I believe that managing a brand is all about managing that relationship.
Now, I am not a brand manager by any shot (at least not at the moment), but over the years, working as a User Experience Designer and Software Developer, has afforded me the opportunity to work in close proximity with brand managers, brand experience enthusiasts and the likes. And in the course of this experience, I have encountered many misconceptions about User Experience which for the most part, seems to tarnish its usefulness. I would like to use this article to correct some of these misgivings and help with the understanding of its value.
Ok, let’s jump in.
User experience is fundamentally about the relationship between people and a brand (ideals, ethos, culture, values, norms, products and services). More than that however, it’s about identifying and designing that relationship. As the amount of technology and digital disruption in the world increases, so too, the nature of this relationship comes to the fore. With new trends in wearable technology (Apple Watch and Google Glass for example) and the Internet of Things becoming ever more prevalent, this disruption will increase, while the perceptions of user experience as being tied only to screens or mere interface design, will also be challenged.
One of the biggest misconception that many brand managers have is that, user experience design is about creating beautiful interfaces. While in all fairness, this is part of User Experience, it is really only a small part of a much larger discipline. The act of designing an interface when it occurs on a screen is called User Interface Design, or Interaction Design. This is a piece of the larger user experience pie and only part of the skills associated with the discipline.
User experience is more than just interfaces
Design is about making things that people need. User experience is an art and science of providing that design i.e. that need is the center of a User experience design effort. It has the habit of asking “why?” about a brand’s product decisions. Why choose this color? Why use this style? Why do we want this size? Why does it have to be round? Why would users want it this way and not that way? And so on. These ‘whys’ are often asked with consideration to the consumers’ need, their understanding and proximity to the consumers and not to some grand marketing theologies (I am sure Steve Jobs would have agreed with me on this one). This can at times place user experience designers at odds with marketing teams and sometimes brand managers, who are more closely focused on how to drive products sales, meet targets and sales volumes or generally improve on the brand’s consumer perception etc. Clearly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. As a matter of fact, user experience design is useless if it does not bring any capital gains or ROI. But, I also believe that at the end, if the consumers’ need and user experience is given the place it deserves, it will help marketers and brand managers, as it can give them valuable intelligence around how to sell or position a product more effectively.
All brand stakeholders should collaborate in design and delivery of effective and consistent user experience. Reputation is built or tarnished at the speed of conversation. Whether, you believe it or not, your consumers will be your #1 brand advocate almost unconsciously, and what they are saying would be a result of what they experienced. And they better be saying the right things.
User experience is about the need for the product, not just its promotion or ‘market-eye’
Consumers are really just people with a need – which a brand’s product addresses. No two people experience the same product exactly the same way. Experience vary from person to person and it is bound to happen on products we promote regardless of whether or not we include them in our marketing strategy. Consumers would interact with our product and they are the best judge of the satisfaction they derive from such engagements.
Most times, brands adopt different business models. marketing strategies, marketing-focused research, promotions, that seeks to explain their customers in terms of the brand’s own capability or market share, rather than customers’ own need. Then we get to generate charts and analytic reports on the consequences of these precinct adoptions. But, in reality, people just want products that meet their need — tailored or bespoke experience so to say.
Every consumer interaction or engagement with a brand would produce an experience.
Experience will always happen. However, it is up to you to decide whether you’ll design for it or not
Today’s technology trends are quickly changing how consumers discover and share information in real-time. It has also changed how they connect with each other from every part of the world. And as these smart and connected technology mature beyond a luxury into everyday commodities, consumer expectations would only inflate. Consumers are becoming less forgiving and more impatient and brands that do not meet up will fade away faster than they appeared. I need not mention popular brands that disappeared when competition arose and brands with more consumer-centered approach to their design philosophy, swept them off.
The truth is, the dynamics that govern the relationship between brands and consumers is constantly evolving. For brands to compete for attention now takes something greater than mere presences in the right channels or support for the most popular devices. From digital wearables to social networks to mobile apps to commerce to digital, experiential strategies form the bridge where intentions meet outcomes. By starting with the end in mind, user experience packages efficiency and enchantment to deliver more meaningful, engaging, and rewarding consumer journeys. So to state it plainly, consumer needs are fast evolving than the readiness for most brands to adapt.
User experience evolves with consumer needs and not the other way round
Business owners, marketing managers, agencies, brand managers, digital marketers, developers, social media managers, consultants, and anyone responsible for any element of consumer engagement can learn from the art and science of user experience. To that end, user experience design is a role that should, in some way, shape or form, find a home within the design of any new media strategy adopted by brands today.
It is very likely that you have had an interaction with a product or service that does not deliver the way you expect or that does not quite meet your need. How did it make you feel? Cheated? Frustrated? Confused? Stupid? Angry? When your product or service does not deliver the way your consumers expect it to, these are some of the feelings that they experience too.
I believe, it is in the realm of all possibility that your consumers are most likely going to be your customers and as such, any of these emotions are the last thing you want them to experience when engaging with your brand.
So, in conclusion, I would say it is important that the place of user experience design (or call it, Consumer Experience Design) in brand perception and experience management is not overlooked.
In the second part of this article, I would outline some of the benefits of user experience design to a brand.
Feel free to drop a comment.