Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's All About Experience

Designing for the UX ...

"Companies that try to create holistic experiences by emotionally engaging their consumers are flourishing.

Advances in manufacturing technology and the global reach of the Internet have leveled the playing field in the product marketplace. It wasn't long ago that time-to-market was two years, then 18 months, and then 12 months. Now, a competitor can knock off your "innovation" in six months or less. Many businesses understand that being "new" or "different" is no longer a differentiator. Countless companies are elbowing their way to the top with designs that are also "feature-rich" or "patent pending." Innovation in product design has lost its meaning and, therefore, its value.

There is still one frontier that remains wide open: experience innovation. This is the only type of business innovation that is not imitable, nor can it be commoditized, because it is born from the specific needs and desires of your customers and is a unique expression of your company's DNA. Yet the design of an experience is often overlooked in the rush to market.
Creating a Complete Experience

Companies intending to be relevant today must learn the art of creating experiences that genuinely engage their customers. Choice-fatigued consumers are not looking for another product that hasn't taken their true needs and desires into consideration. They are looking for companies in which to believe and give their allegiance. They are looking for experiences that cater to their deep-seated desires. This type of engagement requires much more than the latest technological breakthrough: It requires emotional engagement.

This has the highest value to customers because it has meaning. And it even allows companies to reimagine an old idea: The product or service itself does not have value, but the way in which it is experienced makes it fresh. That means you can even charge a premium for it. At over $100 a pair, Lululemon Athletica's (LULU) yoga pants aren't popular simply because of an advance in athletic apparel design. The brand's promise of well-being and its promotion of conscious living permeate every aspect of its business, creating an experience that customers are willing to pay top dollar for. Lululemon's sales at its retail stores doubled in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Creating a meaningful experience requires thoughtful attention to your customers at every point of contact—what I call the 360-degree experience. There are four components to consider when designing the 360-degree experience:

Know where you are in the innovation cycle. There are three areas of innovation: technology, product, and experience. Companies such as Intel (INTC) or Texas Instruments (TXN) offer technology products, such as a semiconductor or wireless data transmission, which can be broadly adapted for many uses. A company such as Sony (SNE), meanwhile, has commercialized a technology and created physical products. Then there are companies that create an experience for customers; engage them and tell a story. Starbucks (SBUX), for instance, took a simple product—coffee—and turned it into a complete experience that satisfied the previously unmet need for café culture in the U.S. Understand where your mindset lies in this innovation cycle, and know what it takes to participate and perform in the other spaces. Migrating to a different area is possible but extremely difficult, and one which requires an alteration of thinking, measurement systems and, eventually, a company's DNA."    (Continued via Putting people first, BusinessWeek)    [Usability Resources]


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