Friday, September 30, 2011

Experience Strategy: Crossroads of marketing, product, UE, & beyond

Courtesy of
Do you wear the same clothes everyday? Well, if you work from home you just might find yourself in the same style of clothes (workout clothes, for example - yes, yes...I'll go running soon!), but even then you at least wear DIFFERENT workout clothes each day!

What do clothes have to do with product, marketing, and user experience?

As one CEO said in the article What marketing executives should know about user experience, "...the person's the same, but the clothes they wear can change depending on the occasion." Basically, he is saying that guidelines are important as a foundation for the experience of something, but too much sameness across your products leaves the user experience feeling uninspired, contrived, or even forced.

The author of that article makes the point that software interfaces to some extent can be consistent over time, but visual interfaces should be timeless and unique which suggests a product experience that reaches beyond the current brand initiative. He drives the point home with the following statement:

"One frequent challenge is the belief that a universal brand- or style-guide should drive the look of all products. But the best digital products focus on a unique set of users and contexts. It's not a one-size-fits-all experience."

You can have an incredible visual experience that's consistent with your brand but have product experience that's a bit of a mess. An example of this for me is Beautiful clothes, very obvious brand, but a website with a product experience that is lacking. 

Yes, I can see the video that consumes the entire screen as it screams how Cavalli fashion is a larger than life experience, but when I click on the tiny icon that displays the collection boxes, the video keeps playing unless I turn it off. Annoying. Then when I click on a collection box to see the clothes, nothing happens. So I try the navigation menu at the bottom of the screen (Really - the BOTTOM of the screen?), and I get a new browser window with tiny gold print on a BLACK screen. Okay, so, I get the symbolism of this visual experience. I get the focus on the clothes. I even understand the suggestion of exclusivity, but this is a prime example of where the brand has has trumped the product experience. What am I left thinking as a potential customer? Hmmm... The website is beautiful but the functionality is lacking so I wonder if the clothes are lacking too?

This statement from What marketing executives should know about user experience sums it up perfectly for me: 

"The visual interface design sets expectations about the experience, but the product's behavior deliver's on that promise."

If we step back from digital products for a sec, I think experience doesn't just live in the digital product space. Experience permeates every aspect of your company and should be consistent no matter where the B2C or B2B interaction occurs. A good case in point is Apple. Now, you know I'm a big fan of Apple products - I've constantly got one of their products in or under my hands. There's no doubt they've set the standard for product experience, but I've got to say that standard doesn't translate to customer service. Simply put, it's slow and they can't seem to answer my questions.

The halo effect assumes if you're good at one thing then you'll naturally be good at something else. Well, not always true as experienced with the Cavalli website and Apple customer service. Great brands take a hit when their customers experience inconsistency across lines of business.

So the net net is it comes down to defining your core experience strategy as it relates to your brand but then consider the unique identity of each product relative to the user experience. If well defined, that experience strategy will be practiced and experienced across all customer (external and internal) interactions. 

How do you know when an experience strategy is well defined?

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