All posts in “design”

Insights from Contagious Now/Next/Why 2014

(Written to share with Fjordians and originally posted for Fjord blog)

The vast majority of brands have yet to adjust their mentality to match the habits of consumers. Companies today are failing to see that successful integration requires more than weaving together digital and physical capabilities. The key to success requires a deep understanding of the human experience.

While attending this year’s Contagious conference, Now/Next/Why New York, it became especially clear that building successful offerings requires a strong customer understanding in order to react to feedback in real-time and to tap into the moments of delight. But this is no easy feat. While presenting at Now/Next/Why, Fjord’s Hyo Yeon pointed to the challenges ahead as we navigate societal norms, mood, etiquette and pure human weirdness in our increasingly connected world. So how should companies respond?  Three particular examples stood out in illustrating how companies should embrace empathy to move towards the right kind of offerings, whether they’re digital or physical.

Visualize your customers’ experience

Although Airbnb had established a strong stable brand, the company was still struggling to prioritize and expand their business. That all changed however, after the product team was inspired by Walt Disney’s approach with his first ambitious animated feature film, Snow White. By mapping out the experience in storyboards, Disney’s process helped collaborators understand the vision.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 4.14.07 PMThe Walt Disney team envisions Snow White through storyboards

Taking on the same approach, the Airbnb team realized their service wasn’t a website, it was the emotional moments that comprise the Airbnb stay. The storyboards encouraged the team to deeply investigate their service through their customers’, hosts’, and employees’ eyes. Not only do the storyboards discourage the team from jumping to solutions based on the latest technology trends, but it provides the team with a shared understanding of the Airbnb experience. In each depiction, Airbnb intentionally avoided any evidence of technology in order to focus on the actual journey of a traveler. Displayed at the entrance of the office, the illustrations in the storyboard became a powerful tool in Airbnb’s business allowing the team to share the vision and to put the user experience at the center of decision-making.

Airbnb_storyboard_v2Airbnb’s vision illustrated through storyboards

Pay close attention to moments

Although companies have become quite adept at adjusting to meet customer needs no matter their location, until now there has been little attempt to react to changing human emotions. In order to take full advantage of the emotional moment of winning a game, Kiip allows brands to reach users during achievements, supporting the user in moments of delight to build a deeper brand connection.

Kiip achieves this through its reward program platform allowing any brand to offer rewards in an engaging, meaningful, and relevant way. For example, let’s say you are a to-do list app developer. Using Kiip, you can give your user a reward for completing all their hard work, such a coupon to a spa or a free car ride.

american-apparel-handKiip connects mobile user with rewards

With a better understanding of your customer’s emotional experience, brands like Kiip can not only better serve their customers but also develop deeper long-lasting relationships.

Understand the strengths and weaknesses of digital 

Often we think mighty technology can be a solution for everything, but Hointer is a great example of when in-person encounters are more suited to the customer’s needs.

After attempting to resolve Amazon’s customer dissatisfaction with its clothing division, Nadia Shouraboura realized that certain items need to be experienced in-person. So she quit Amazon and opened an apparel store called Hointer, a brick-and-mortar store informed by her experience in online shopping.

HointerHointer combines people, space, and technology to enhance the shopping experience

This highly technology-equipped store utilizes software that allows customers to view product information through their mobile phones, select articles to try on, and order clothes to a fitting room. Actually, technology streamlines the in-store process in every way but one: styling. Hointer recognizes that the complexity of personal style cannot be solved by computer algorithms. Style is about personality and individual characteristics; it cannot be spewed out based on your last purchases.

The Hointer example is a powerful reminder that advanced technology cannot fulfill all human needs. When it comes to tasks that require both expertise and emotional intelligence, people still do the job best.

Designing customer experiences requires considerations of all factors: time, place, environments, emotions, economics and social context. Whether the final solution is an ipad app or placing a warm cup of coffee in one’s hand, brands will build stronger relationship as long as it originates from a deep understanding of the customer journey.

Sexy B2B application

(Written as part of Fjord IxD writing, shared within Fjord New York studio)

We design digital interface (among other things). To be a relevant to the market or simply to amuze ourselves we want to design for the latest platform with the latest technology that enables us focus on true user experience, rather than coming up with work-arounds of technical limitations.

However, digital adaption in business environment is far slower than the consumer market. During Aetna project last year, we discovered that Walmart had only 1 PC per store that was shared by all staffs and the store managers were equipped with feature phones. In In service design point of view, we can still design a system that works smoothly while embracing these ‘slow users’, but the interface is not going to be sexy.

There are other factors that make B2B applications not as appealing as consumer ones.

One is about the decision making process and the proxy of users. The specific tasks that the users will be doing in the application are represented by the business owners who may not necessarily be the user of the application. Therefore, the points that the designers try to come across from UX point of view could be compromised by people who say that they know what the users are doing.

Another is about powerless users. The impact that the individual user has on the product sales(or user base) is relatively small on B2B solutions. Consumers will leave the service right away when they can’t figure out how it works. But business users have to deal with the poorly designed application until the company decides to end the partnership. So the efforts  that go into making a flow ‘a couple clicks less’ may not be as valued when designing for B2B.

As we focus more on service design, I personally thought about this ugly B2B application issue quite a bit. How do we fight for the simpler, sleeker and sexier user experience for B2B? Here are a couple of bullets to fight back.

B2B users are humans too and the principles of designing for humans (simplicity, easy of use, emotional pleasure etc) should still apply. In fact, the tasks that users need to accomplish on a daily basis on B2B applications are more complex than consumer’s, B2B applications are the ones that need more UX support.

Also, B2B users are the users of consumer products and they are familiar with the latest technology. Working with familiar user flow, they can get the job done much quicker.

I’d love to hear what other people think about this.

P.S. An article about designing for B2B.