Five principles of designing experiences

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design experiencesTo make the workplace deliver a great experience, begin by immersing yourself in the employee’s world

Design is the way products are supposed to work. It is not just adding a little swirl after the product has been finalised. When a beautifully designed product fails in the market, should we blame it on design? Would you say that Google Glass failed because it was badly designed? The features were cool and innovative. You could tap into Google’s massive treasure trove of indexed information and more at a tap. So why did it fail?

Empathy goes beyond features

Features are created with logic. But users look for designs that have empathy. They care about what the design makes them feel. With Google Glass, there was a possibility of our safety and privacy getting compromised. Imagine periodically tapping the sidebar of the Google Glass as you take photos in the museum you are visiting, or saying, “OK Google, to send a message.” Google Glass failed because of what it made users (and others around) feel – despite its features.

Stop being a tourist

Designers need to design with empathy. That means giving up one’s prior knowledge of the subject and looking at it with the eyes of a novice to understand the feelings of a user. This is easier said than done.

Observing people in their natural surroundings is a good starting point. But don’t do it like a tourist. Instead immerse yourself in that world.

Spending a week going on a “route-ride” with the sales team of the company that I had joined meant that I lived in the same hotels and had the same amount of daily allowance as the sales team. I was not going there as a tourist. I lived that life and understood the emotions that the sales team felt – their challenges, their triumphs and aspirations. When I started to design policies for the sales teams, I had a deeper appreciation of their world having lived that life for a while.

To appreciate a new country, tourists have to step in to the shoes of the natives, understand their world-view and cultures, traditions and superstitions.

AmazingCreating an experience that will be seen as “amazing” can be done only if the people understand what amazes the group who is going to use the product or service.

Designing experiences, not processes

In the digital world, being able to create experiences is the Holy Grail.

Human Resources teams in the analogue world have often striven to be designers of processes that govern the employee’s life cycle. That means every process from talent acquisition to separation and everything in between will have processes that employees will follow.

Recruiters are often guilty of contacting a potential candidate multiple times to schedule interviews and accommodate changing schedules. But they do not keep the applicant posted about the outcome of the interview – especially if the outcome is not favourable. The recruiter may be following a process that ignores the candidates who are rejected after evaluation.

What if the candidate could get real-time feedback about the progress of their candidature? The ride-sharing companies show the location of the cab in real time and the approximate waiting time. The route is shared and even the areas where traffic is heavy are marked along with the estimated time of reaching the destination.

Experiences are designed to generate three emotions: Curiosity, surprise and amazement. They turn passive consumers into evangelists.

Five principles of designing experiences

Amaze1. Experiences are designed with the user – not for them

To design what it feels like to be a patient being wheeled, the designers have to experience the journey from the point of view of the patient. Kaiser Permanente found ways to bring the time it takes nurses to change shift down from 40 minutes to 12. The design firm worked with nurses and practitioners worked with them and co-created the new process.

2. Experiences cut across the customer journey

When a customer wants to buy a new home, they need help in identifying choices, gauge impact on choices for schools and commute time, evaluate housing loans, choose movers and packers, and so on. Just fixing one part of the journey is not good enough. The firm that can redesign this experience will be the winner.

3. Experiences cut across multiple functions of the organisation

I know of a search firm that was working with an auto major. The vendor registration process was a complex and bureaucratic process that meant going back and forth between the legal team, HR and strategic sourcing team. The firm was doing a confidential search for the CEO’s successor. The new CEO had heard more than his share of woes from the search firm. It was one of the first processes that he streamlined after taking over.

4. Experiences must address needs, tasks & contexts

Apple’s design was based on the insight that consumers like to touch a product and feel it before they buy it. If the design is intimidating, they look at the product from a distance. Having the battery in the phone partly charged allows the user to experience instant gratification of using the phone as soon as it is unpacked.

5. Experiences are in perpetual beta

Consumer needs are continuously evolving. The work of the designer of experiences never ends. A process design is episodic. People meet in a room, design the product and once it is completed it is handed over to the user. Experiences are continuously tweaked based on the feedback of the user.

Designing an experience also triggers a redesign of the organisation’s silos. While the journey begins by keeping the consumer or customer at the centre, the organisation has to be redesigned as well. Designing experiences begins with the customers and has to involve redesigning the employee experiences as well. That maybe why Apple’s official address is 1 Infinite Loop.


Written for my column in Business Line dated 7th Dec 2017 <Read original>

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