User Experience or Customer Experience

UX, an acronym for User Experience, is a designers required prefix in a modern world where emotional design is king. The emphasis on user experiences is growing rapidly with focus on delivering meaningful and magical experiences in our products, though often failing. Why?

A UX designers abilities and responsibilities can’t be taken lightly, as he or she is literally responsible for the product adaptability and adoptability by the customers and their circumstances. Because of this, UX needs to be an executive strategy, to empower the right people, with the right knowledge within your organisation.

The product must be able to adapt to the everyday circumstances, following the customers needs. The product also need to be desired by the customer, who must adopt the company brand, adding loyalty to the company. But even further, the product needs to understand why customers are buying in the first place.

Customers don’t trust ideas based on hollow visuals and shallow experiences. They believe in the story, the true concept, the core and the essence, everything else is circumstantial, everything else is achievable, everything else is duplicatable. They believe in products, where every detail is telling the same strong resonating story. They trust products that offers true feelings created by true people. They trust their emotions, thus must your product offer values that will respond to their empathy. As emotions are stronger then knowledge and logic, thus will emotional products sustain and surpass the competition.

The UX prefix is not an acronym you can add to your resume if you’re not prepare to go all the way. Sadly, the UX designer today has fallen into many interpretations and job descriptions, ranging from merely architecture to insightful business strategies.

It is a common mistake to think that a UX designer simplify thing, but that is the job of a UI designer. As a UX designer, we relate through logical empathy. We understand the advanced mental process, behaviors and desires of our customers, users, dealers, engineers, artists etc., as we care about all aspects of use and production. We are the umbrella that support and guide the entire product development to ensure that we deliver that magical moment in the finished product. We understand that people don’t purchase hammers, they purchase a job to be done, a means to an end.

A UX designers job and required knowledge is wide and deep, as we must incorporate many business areas, i.e.,

  • Customer insight, finding the desires, the real job to be done.
  • Understanding artistic expressions and their emotional impact.
  • Customer journeys, from purchase to end of life, user behaviours.
  • Cross department collaboration, ensuring creative thoughts and customer focus from all angles.

Knowledge Initiatives

The ability to be a hybrid is not about weakening your abilities, but instead strengthening your perspective and understanding. People who only speak one language, don’t hear nor see the contrast, while people who speak many languages strengthening their understanding, as they start to see the denominators, reaching a higher meaning in expression and articulation. Mathematics is a class that must people avoid, as in “why do I need to learn algebra?”. We need to learn about diversity in all areas of knowledge, as we then learn to see the contrast, the creative grey area of knowledge. If we don’t strive to understand each other, we will never be able to work towards a common goal.

UX designers can be rated on their abilities, defining their level of knowledge and the levels they precede,

  1. Information. Your attention is on creating swim-lanes and wireframes, often created by Information Architects.
  2. Interactions. Your attention is on the information architecture and behavior in each product component, analyzing the use cases and how it might be misused, often created by UI Designers.
  3. Artistry. Each component and its use cases must bond with the user through relatable curves and colors. The artistic rendition is communicating the brand manual, followed to the letter. This level alone is often the job of an Art Director and is primarily focusing on following and updating design manuals. Artistry, in this context, is the ability to express communication through an aesthetic design language. Your mind is visual and you can deliver that imagination into your work. You think in abstracts, unstructured and can turn any blank canvas into beautiful creations, without being bound by limitations. You have a subtle mind, working the details, the nuance and esthetics. There is a deeper meaning, a soul within, transmitted into your work, carefully applied with elegance.
  4. Experience. The designer has a higher understanding of how the user think and work, how they feel about each component and the overall approach to the product. The designer has an empathic connection with the user, a truly selfless act. Many designers are extremely empathic, but unfortunately channel all their empathy towards the product, trapped, as the designer sees them self as a customer. They use their empathy to scope the design from their own relation with the object, desiring the result. This is a typical scenario for many designers, where empathy is between the object and the designer, not the user and the designer. I call this an ego-centric product design, where design is at the core, resonating with those who relate to the designer, not to the product.
  5. Insights. There is no user, there is only a customer. The term ‘user’ is a fictive and degrading perception of a static scenario. The customer is real and must be followed from purchase throughout the product lifetime. Analyzing what your customers are expecting, will deliver you more insights then anything else. You will be able to find the right level of commitment and align all your product related activities within marketing, service, production and design. You might discover that your users demand more or less of your product, while you might be working in the opposite direction, resulting in either underused or overused resources.

To put the levels into perspective; you can’t just pick and choose, you must gain the abilities of each level before ascending to the next. A designer must understand the why and how, diving deep into information architecture, interactions, art direction and emotional experiences. In the end, the real learning is understanding that the user is not a static and outdated persona, it is a real customer, with shifting trends and circumstances. The customer is part of a market, always in movement and evolving each day.

A designers language will define a balance between the principle theory that must be challenged and the dynamic quickly shifting persona theory, that must be restrained. Adding the two theories to a language as a guide, specialized through an accent, will create an evolving design process, replacing the deprecated and static design manuals in a modern world.

Customer Experience

As a customer experience designer, you are a dreamer, a poet, living in the moment, feeling the world around you and the implications it has, as it turns. You can think in subtle thoughts, finding the true essential meaning in everything, interlinked by a mesmerizing story, a deeper meaning, revealing the poetry of your products existence.

You are a concept author, a story teller, writing the very fabric of your product, the DNA, which will be part of an evolutionary timeline, maturing your products and testing your poetic vision.

You are the abstract mind, working on multiple levels, in multiple dimensions. As a poet, you wonder, you explore, you question every facet in your cognitive experience, as a warm summer breech. You enjoy these thoughts, they soots you and the world seems to make sense, as your unravel a hidden meaning. You understand the secrets and live to discover their purpose.

You are a visionary and accelerates in ideas, concepts and the resulting products. You are the inspiration and trendsetter of the team, an evolutionary force, moving and engaging your audience and the products they use.

Product Story

Customers don’t know why their emotions resonate with your product and often proclaime their devotion by the products functional or financial benefits instead. They speak about the signature features or how much they spend on their latest purchase, instead of why they really bought the product, the added emotional value. The ability to perceive this value, the product story, is the insight you must first gain in order to build the functionality.

Because of this dilemma, production houses and organizations located at the bottom of the design latter think that people demand the feature rich products. But when you scratch the surface, layer by layer, the real demand is the ability to understand their circumstantial need, the story at the core.

Customers don’t need nor buy your products. Your products are just a mean to an end. The ‘means’ is your product, the ‘end’ is the customer demand. Your product is there to fix a circumstantial need, in your customers daily life and your real product is to solve that need.

People don’t buy hammers, they buy the ability to get things done. Your product strategies and management categorization must be build on such insights.

Are you a user experience designer or a customer experience designer?

This article is from the book, Product Design Dilemmas. A modern design ideology for customer driven designers and managers.