Work undertaken off-screen
9 minutes reading time
Talking about digital product design, us designers, spend most of our productive time sitting in front of the screens. And we rather often think that this is just the same case of user experience too. To be able to design good user experience one should stand up from the office chair in order to expand the reference of all touchpoints that users come into contact with. User Experience has a massive influence on business objectives outcomes, of course, if the role is internally recognised as a business strategy player.
No matter what product you design, you are always designing it for users, for customers who can use it, for people in mind. We all can be user experience designers, by all almost all means, but it is much better to leave this chunk of work to user-focused microclimates inside your company or contractors who are already having it under their skin. This gives you, you the innovator, much more space to achieve what you need to achieve.
Successful companies are user experience focused which is far more than brand with its logo itself, branded free office stationery, website or an app. User Experience story for these companies starts before users are touching their products and doesn’t end with product adoption, but by its scalability, servicing, troubleshooting, iteration over and over again or by measuring its impact. They are about an entire user experience package wherever a user comes into contact with a brand.
Nowadays, and for a lot of companies this design thinking approach is so expanded, but the thing is that it no less importantly consider off-screen design process activities. In order to build a digital product such as a website or an app one needs to consider the wider design-focused approach. And here we are, this is where user experience strategy can show-off its powers.
The learning curve is proving that designers are no longer being assigned with a solution, but in contrary, they are being assigned with a problem to be solved or even better, they need to see if there is any problem to be solved. More importantly, designers expanding their gardens within companies and occupy senior or higher roles. This change has become welcomed in user experience strategy development.
As per McKinsey study of 300 companies during 5 years period where 2M pieces of financial data and 100K design actions have been analysed: Design-Led companies alongside with execution of design principles had 32% more revenue in comparison with companies who do not consider user experience strategy as part of product development.
Companies that managed to shift their thinking are elevating the role of designers within their internal infrastructures, stressing the importance of Design Thinking, providing sufficient breathing space for, equally important, off-screen activities as a core strategic driver. This is a long-term investment, appreciation of design, cultural change, change towards better that has been on hold for a while just because things worked the way they were, because we felt comfortably inside our routines. But now it is time to begin to impact wider business outcomes as designers.
Results, so far, are quite overwhelming. User Experience driven companies are open to wider innovation without taking unnecessary risks or spending crazy budgets on unfinished products. Simply put, they are designing better products, products designed with people in mind and more engaged relationships with users.
As this almost natural, for some companies rather painful, the process continues, we still need to create more space for user experience strategy and think of how design can impact us beyond screens.
Customer Experience (CX)
When preparing for product design (new product, improvement, iteration, ongoing development and so on), it is important to focus on the totality of the user journey in its widest possible way at all times. The probability that user come into contact with your product without previously touching your brand elsewhere is not as low as one may think. And because of this, one should stress about designing every possible touchpoint or route where a user can or will come into contact with your brand. This is a guideline, not an armour rule, the touchpoints can span or go by discovery, awareness, references, engagement and objective within a users context.
To design or uncover such a strategy, there aren’t many profiles within an organisation with such a skill set. Yes, there are but with distributed knowledge across multiple departments even floors. But one profile or one team possess it all, which can be considered as user experience strategist, that works with users and totality of the customer experience (user journey). To design a robust and agile product one needs to consider all possible touchpoints a user can come into contact with.
In other words, before you design a product, make sure to have someone around who wants it.
Now, if you can look at this way, you can already see that a final product is in a way a fraction of a wider climate of what is or can be happening around it. The totality of a product consider tiny, but big, user experience strategies that makes a product complete, well-designed and prepared to be situated so it fits nicely within a users context.
In the glossary, customer experience is considering online media from websites, apps, emails, services to social media. The off-screen section covers phone calls, offline marketing or packaging if you are dealing with physical production.
Customer Experience Roadmap
To make sense of it all one need to design a road map. Visual customer experience in order to understand an entire flow. The map doesn’t have to be beautiful nor nicely-designed. The more nasty, the more agile it gets. Make sure it is editable, iterable and understandable to other stakeholders in no time. You can make it beautiful later on.
Yes, as a user experience strategist you should interview internal and external parts in order to get the map right. Apart from using other data gathering techniques. The goal is to map out all the contexts in which a user come into contact with. Road map provides you with a deep understanding of user interaction and helps you explore opportunities of how a problem should be solved, moreover, it helps you to shift the way you think of product development.
Less importantly you will have more stakeholders on your side during the process because while including them in the interview process, they already feel like being part of it and most probably you are going to solve some of their problems too. With this step achieved you can be sure that user experience is forming part of your wider business strategy.
Explore the design
Exploring the design is free for everyone, not only for big brands loaded with resources. Well, it is certainly less costly than moving straight onto the design process.
Imagine that you are building an app that is meant to navigate travellers from the airport to the city centre using free shuttle. Easy, no? To build an app is beyond not enough. You, as product strategy designer, need to understand the totality of all touchpoints.
- How do you let a user discover such service?
- You already know that most of the travellers will take advantage of such a service, but most probably they won’t have an app stored on their phone.
- Do you need to think of a physical touchpoint placed directly at the airport to help users to discover? How do you brand the stand? Where exactly do you place it? Consider physical packaging, in a way.
- For those who were more proactive and downloaded the app already: do I need to think of certain key navigation through the airport?
- Will the discovery process work through social media?
- The story that is being told needs to be trustworthy and engaging. Who on earth is offering free service nowadays?
- How about an email campaign? Different audiences?
- Consider support, events of physical troubleshooting in case shuttle get stuck in traffic and don’t arrive on time to pick a user up.
This list is to serve as a possible guideline of what touchpoints or off-screen activities should be considered while designing a product. Each product comes with its design particularities, but the process is always the same. It’s a design thinking pattern. It’s about users and how they discover your products, how do you make them want it and enjoy it.
If you have started reading this post as an unbeliever or unconscious about user experience as part of the wider strategy, now you know that you very probably have someone in-house already who is equipped with such knowledge that can help you with wider product design.
We all are naturally looking for opportunities and most of the time they are lying in front of us. We just need to know who exactly can pick them up and translate them into a well-designed strategy that leads to the well-designed user experience. The way we worked yesterday is no longer a valid status quo. Product design is evolving faster than ever and it is important also to drive our attention to the designing processes as well. And this involves designing the strategies by designers and not by executives groups any longer.
Before entering into the product design (no matter what context) one should stop and breath before undertaking a design task. One should stress about the correct design strategy, patterns, service design and entire user experience which consider a lot of none digital activities.
Considering the totality of the customer experience as part of your user experience strategy leads to well-designed products. Your product should solve users problems before they even realise they have any. And correct, even if basic to start with, user experience strategy can help you to do so. Don’t forget, it is about opportunities.