You go to a movie that impresses you. You go to a restaurant that you just have to tell someone about.
What is it about these experiences that you will describe to your friends? Will it be the size of the screen, the excellent, immersive audio or perhaps the technical details of the filming or script writing in the movie? As for the restaurant, will it be the ingredients in the food, the cooking styles employed or furniture styles in the dining room?
One thing is for sure … you will focus on how you felt. You will describe what impressed you, what made you laugh till your sides hurt, how you felt like you were part of the story and how got carried to another world. After the restaurant experience, will you say how you felt at home, like royalty or how you experienced flavours, scents and a service that made you want to talk about it the next day?
My point here is that what we remember most and are usually most likely to share are emotions. Sure, for some of us the technical aspect might be important, but we would often mention them as aspects of the emotions they make us feel.
So why is it that in UX we end up discussing the screen? Similarly, why is it that in CX we tend to focus only on journey maps? We almost never think about feelings, emotions or experience.
Experience is the sum of emotions one feels in a situation. In business, it is the sum of feelings one has when interacting with a brand or company. That is what is important – the technical aspects are details we deal with to design and create the experience and essential to the professional – but they are tools and building blocks, not the experience itself.
I saw a perfect example of this in a project I am just starting on, the “UX of VR” (VRX). I am new to the VR world, so I met with designers to discuss the experience aspects. They started speaking about helmets & goggles, paddles for manipulating virtual objects, headphones and volumetric video. We briefly mentioned that we could one day look at my files in immersive 3D, waving my hands to manipulate them sort of like an orchestra conductor or Skype with people in a virtual space of my design. I must admit that all this is very cool stuff. Then I asked about how people feel with that silly headset on, and the room went silent. “That is not UX,” said one of the guys. “We want to know about getting the user to interact with virtual objects in the headset.”
I actually want to think about why the user would what to do this and how he/she feels doing it. Thinking about this objective of getting the user to interact using the headset, I wonder how they would feel about the aesthetical aspect. In short, no one was considering the possibility that some users would object the idea simply because they would look goofy in public. At the very bare minimum, putting the thing on might be too big a barrier even for everyday home use.
Experience is Much More than UI
And it is not just an academic discussion. I recently worked with a client on their Experience Strategy. We concluded that they needed three distinct ones:
- Customer Experience
- Employee Experience
- Supplier Experience
The company is dependent on all three, and though they share elements, they are different enough to merit looking at them separately. A question we asked was if our brand positioning should be the same in all cases. Ultimately we wanted the result to be almost the same in all three – perhaps it is a general truism applicable to all business. “We want our [customers, employees, suppliers, …] to be happy they chose us.”
But getting to “happy” might be a different road in some of those cases.
For me it shattered the UX vs. CX discussion. It’s the X that matters. The U or C is just the subset we are looking at at the moment.
This thought could mean starting right at the top and defining different brand archetypes, communications styles, relationship attributes and only then begin thinking about channels and UI designs (if applicable). But it is all experience design. Getting to “Happy”.
With my client, we decided that we did not need to develop different positions, but we did need to emphasise aspects of our position statement and archetype differently.
- Customers: For customers, we wanted to help them enjoy their time more by offering easier, faster and more informed food choices. That meant playing with channels (mobile apps, SMS suggestions, physical presence in key locations), tools (daily planners & pre-ordering, expense tracking, group orders), and gamification.
- Employees: For employees we wanted to emphasise our desire for them to feel ownership of their tasks, projects and company success and maybe even showcasing employees on company websites (allowing them to post videos of themselves or links to their blogs or other “we are the people of…” and strongly encouraging them to do public speaking outside the company). We also wanted to involve them in the innovation aspect of the company, which meant allowing mistakes and failure as well as the wins. Finally, we wanted to foster individual professional growth which meant completely open access to top management and strong internal promotion policies.
- Suppliers: As for suppliers (many of whom are small mum & pop type shops, not sophisticated businesses) it meant showing them the benefits of doing business together, offering video or other mentoring as well as apps or webs showing specific profit increases.
All this for a company that delivers restaurant food to your home or office.
The reaction of my client is quite an excited one because of their understanding that experience is the key differentiator in their business. Also, since they do not control the quality or speed of the product nor conditions in which the delivery is made, they need to create other aspects of key relationships they do have control over. During most of our time together we did not look at apps or the web or even service design at all. We looked at emotions; what we wanted to achieve and ways we might get there. We looked at user experience – not the user interface.
So What Lies Ahead?
As I start thinking about the VR project, and hopefully other future interesting projects that might follow it, I force myself to go back to the fundamentals. The technology is seductively cool, and it is very easy to think it is a self-selling thing – but so was quadraphonic audio.
I do foresee obvious specialist use cases like remote surgery and disarming terrorists, and I see enthusiasts like gamers and drone pilots getting on board early. But what will motivate the rest of us (besides that one thing which brought VCRs, colour monitors and broadband into every home but polite websites do not discuss) to don the helm?
As I see it today the emotional barriers are pretty high; cost (yes, that is emotional), feeling silly, the fear of feeling stupid and simply having no idea how it might be worth it. 3D TV never really caught on and those glasses do not look nearly as silly. And the benefits are, well, non-existent beyond the geek factor.
So far all the discussions I see revolve around “You could do this…” but no one talks about why I, the user, would want to. I do not know the answer. But I suspect it has got to be found before mass adoption becomes a reality.
(Lead image: SquareSpace – Creative Commons)