User Experience by Design

Mike Fennessy // Jul 6 // Insights

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MOST PEOPLE MAKE THE MISTAKE OF THINKING DESIGN IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. PEOPLE THINK IT’S THIS VENEER — THAT THE DESIGNERS ARE HANDED THIS BOX AND TOLD, ‘MAKE IT LOOK GOOD!’ THAT’S NOT WHAT WE THINK DESIGN IS. IT’S NOT JUST WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE AND FEELS LIKE. DESIGN IS HOW IT WORKS. — STEVE JOBS

I had the opportunity recently to attend Interactive Day here in San Diego. Of the sessions I sat in on, one in particular has lodged itself firmly in my head: “A Delightful Experience: UX That Delivers,” presented by Greg Zapar, VP/Experience Design for Digitaria.

Greg challenged session members to see that User Experience extends outside the online space, blurring the lines of digital and the traditional idea of branding. Coming from print-centric beginnings myself, when I hear or read about UX, I immediately think digital. I suppose it's impossible not to these days.

Online, the details that make up a great user experience range in size and significance, but the goal is the same:

  • Give users some of their day back
  • Make interacting with your brand enjoyable

Whether it's auto-selecting credit card type based on card number, or geolocating users through the browser to display nearby retail locations, it's often the smaller details that can really make for a great online experience.

In the real world, (and to Greg’s examples) those details could be anything— from the right brand of coffee waiting in your hotel room to free-for-the-day bikes to ride lined up in the lobby. I have always thought of those things simply as a part of the branding process. Thoughtful, and most times, logical decisions about the consumer-facing brand. Some user experiences stand out, others go unnoticed, but they all matter. And it's all User Experience design.

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Which brings me to Greg’s other highly salient point – The design bar has been raised and design oriented business are winning.

For an example of this, take a hard look at the smartphone market. Once the domain of clunky, all-business-no-aesthetic devices like RIM’s Blackberry, the smartphone industry has turned 180 degrees since Apple’s entry into the market. While RIM has floundered, others have flourished – HTC and Samsung for instance, have embraced an Apple-style approach to handset design, from the look and feel of the hardware to a more polished approach to Android. Gone are the designed-by-engineers bricks, replaced by beautiful gadgets that would make Dieter Rams proud.

Think about it: How many times has a client come to you raving about Apple’s design aesthetic? From great user interface design to sophisticated shopping experiences, Apple has set a bar that many brands are scurrying to catch up to. And it's not always about the digital aspects of the brand. It's decidedly analog when it comes time to unwrap your latest iThing. Each has a part to play in how we as users interact with and form opinions of brands. And it’s no longer solely about specs, function or look and feel. Creating lasting connections with brands now requires all three to be at the core of what we create.

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