Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Defining Experience: Clarity Amidst the Jargon

Getting UX terms clear ...

"The word experience has gained significant traction over the past 15 years. Beginning with the mainstreaming of the term user experience in the software industry and, later, extended to the work of marketing professionals who began thinking about marketing as being experiential, the idea of experience as a focused professional area of endeavor is alive, well, and growing rapidly. However, the more our space grows, the more confused and chaotic is our collective understanding of the meaning of these terms. To try to help clarify this murkiness, I want to share my definitional model for the fields of experience and provide guidelines for the use of various terms.

Who am I to be providing these definitions? I believe my background uniquely suits me to presenting a holistic solution. During my career, I’ve spent at least a few years in each of the following professions: advertising executive, management consultant, product designer, and entrepreneur. I’ve thought in depth about the concept of experience and been professionally engaged in creating experiences from the product, marketing, and business viewpoints. I’ve worked on and written about things impacting experience as diverse as the restructuring of companies, the design of complex 3D environments, and the development of various forms of creation—ranging from software to marketing collateral. More, I’ve been actively involved in the thought leadership of these fields. My various board appointments include serving as President of the User Experience Network (UXnet) and as a Director of the AIGA Center for Brand Experience. To be honest, since I’ve understood these terms and their relationships for a long time, all of the professional confusion and conflict out there has been a source of perpetual frustration to me—ultimately providing the impetus for me to write this article. With that in mind, let me share the three core experience terms I advocate and show how they interact.

Brand Experience

Brand experience refers to all of the touchpoints a company has with people, including—but not limited to—advertising, marketing, and public relations; packaging, point-of-purchase, and retail display; software and online and Internet-related services; and the physical spaces where people work. By strict definition, a brand experience is quantifiable and can be temporally fixed. For example, a company like Proctor & Gamble has, at least, thousands of touchpoints around the world, all of which collectively make up their brand experience. In practice, the intentional planning of the brand experience for a company like P&G specifically accounts for these touchpoints at a relatively high level—such as a category encompassing all physical buildings, with a further segmentation of all of the different types of physical buildings within their purview. However, the actual design of those buildings occurs at a level below brand experience. It is up to the brand experience organization to identify all of the different touchpoints or categories of touchpoints and set brand guidelines, design strategy, and business requirements for them. The execution of those tactics and the design of explicit artifacts occurs at the next level, which we collectively refer to as experience design.
Experience Design

Experience design refers to the planning, creation, and management of articulated touchpoints within the brand experience. As such, it is fluid and can include the design of anything, ranging from a trade-show booth to a sales brochure to an intranet. Historically, we have associated different terms and areas of specialty with designing particular things—in those specific examples, exhibit design, marketing, and software user interface design. In most cases, it is best to continue using these more specific and well-established terms, as they are well understood and provide good clarity around definition and intent. However, when looking across those terms collectively, they all represent different examples of experience design—actually planning, creating, and managing specific, explicit components of the brand experience."    (Continued via UXmatters. Dirk Knemeyer)    [Usability Resources]


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