Shaping how an experience feels for your end users is a critical driver in business success. Experience Design aims to create a more holistic experience for every user, stretching experience beyond pure interaction with digital interfaces to include the product, service and company.

Disney’s Imagineering teams marry technology with design to create ownable, memorable experiences

Experience Design is the process of creating meaningful experiences both online and offline, centred on the user. It’s a much broader umbrella than user experience (UX) design. To design an experience, you might need information architects, interaction designers, user experience designers, user interface designers, visual designers and developers, but you also might need the assistance of researchers, architects, social scientists, psychologists, ergonomists, marketers, customer experience experts, data analysts and more, depending on your product or space. Think of a resort reception, a client presentation or a pitch, each experience includes the spatial, tactile, auditory, olfactory — and good experience design ensures these are the result of careful consideration, not accident.

What is Experience Design? How does It Impact Business?

A carefully considered physical or digital experience is an extension of the product or service, and helps brands build relationships with consumers and differentiate themselves in the market. Whether that’s an in-store experience, a branded event or a wearable, each interaction, and each detail of the customer’s unique experience reinforces the relationship with the service and brand.

Experience design is the creation of unique, thoughtful and transformative moments in time. Experience designers aren’t just designing what people might do, but also what people might feel. Well-designed experiences change your audience’s perception of your product or service in some way — this might be reflected in a shift in their feelings, beliefs or actions. 

Consider Disney’s curated experiences — Disney’s “Imagineering” combines technology, product, art, music and spatial design to craft one-of-a-kind customer experiences that are ownable, and recognisable and resonate deeply with their target audiences. What are consumers looking for when they approach a brand? What do they love about the experience? How can we create a memory to cherish?

Consumers across the world are eager for more direct, empathetic and meaningful interactions with brands. And experience design determines how well a brand can deliver on these interactions. It’s no wonder McKinsey & Company finds a correlation between the McKinsey Design Index rankings and business performance. Brand success often comes down to experience design — how a brand makes you feel, not merely product features, pricing or specifications.

1. Designing Spaces, and Customer Experiences

The experience of space, whether physical or virtual, drives behavioural change. Whether you’re in a museum, gallery, downtown district, cafe, store, coworking space, workplace, or on public transport, the best designed experiences transcend the physical details to connect at a personal, emotional level. Experiences impact behavioural change. It’s the reason we choose to revisit one store, cafe, bank or city over another.

Experience Design at American Express embraces an elevated Customer Experience (CX)

The all encompassing nature of Experience Design also embraces Customer Experience (CX). CX looks at the experience a customer has across every touchpoint of their brand, all along the customer journey. American Express for instance reinvented their customer response protocols to reflect this. Their contact centre employees are now referred to as Customer Care Professionals and are trained to adapt their responses depending on the personalities of each client. Staff make every effort to ensure that issues are resolved at first contact; there is no pressure for Customer Care Professionals to reduce their call time averages and the staff are empowered to do whatever is necessary to ensure the customers go away satisfied. The brand found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. With customer experiences often outweighing pricing and product in deciding whether to stick with a brand or switch, this focus on CX pays rich dividends for a business.

2. Intentional Design: How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

The first step in designing an experience is getting to know the person you’re designing for. Because you’re hoping to create a reaction in the audience, it’s imperative to know how they work. What makes them excited? What do they enjoy the most? What gets them annoyed? Why do they come back? Knowing what triggers an audience allows experience design to create the conditions that propel an emotional shift. To achieve this we need to know who our audience is and what they care about. 

The key to designing memorable experience includes designing an opening moment, a closing moment and prototyping the process to iron out any chinks in the process. The opening sets the tone, helps people transition into the space, the close revisits and summarises the experience, shares a moment of gratitude or leaves you on a high. Designing the start, a standout moment and the finish, and then prototyping to figure out how an experience will actually unfold, helps eliminate less impactful ideas before they make it to the final experience.

Equitable employee experiences at Nordstrom are critical to ensuring successful customer experiences

3. Not Everything is About the Customer

While experience design is sometimes confused with user experience (UX) design, the term is much broader than just the user experience. While Customer Experience is just one important dimension, brands often overlook the very people responsible for creating the customer experience — employees.

Unhappy and unfulfilled employees will likely struggle to deliver a happy and fulfilling brand experience. Nordstrom is well regarded for its employee experiences. The company ensures 100% pay equity for employees of all genders and races, meaning equal pay for comparable work — essential to creating an environment where every employee feels valued and respected.

The employee experience counts towards the end user experience. Ensuring that employees have the support and empowerment to deliver the customer experience, that they are engaged and fulfilled at work, and believe in the product is a critical component of successful experience design.

As customers, we intuitively compare each new experience, positive or otherwise, with previous ones and act on our assessments. Great experience design considers the measurable and the immeasurable. It encompasses designing for space, user, product, customer, employee and more, but is always the outcome of good design and informed decision-making.

Ready to take your brand to the next level with experience design, but not sure where to start?

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