Experience Follows Brand

A logo designer can choose the perfect typeface and construct the perfect logo.  A marketer can evangelize and promote a product or service.  Yet all of these things are irrelevant until the consumer or end-user experiences the product or service.  It is the job of a marketing professional to sell, it’s a user experience professional’s job to make sure that the product or service is designed so that a user loves using it.  Experience builds brand equity, not an ad.

What is user experience design?

User experience (UX) design is the practice of creating archetypes and interaction layers for a user’s experience with software or a device.  UX professionals advocate for the user.  Their job is to help enable a good experience for the end user of the product or service.  Visual design is not the crux of what a UX professional does, but rather the blue print for the product or service which is guided by research.  No design is ever perfect, but a UX professional tries to enable the best experience possible.  Below is a video that outlines the general workflow of a UX professional.

UX Workflow

UX is extremely cross-disciplinary.  A UX professional is versed in design, psychology, and business, which is one of the leading reasons that UX is becoming more more accepted and valued.

Having a very cross-disciplinary work environment means that studies from multiple areas can be related to UX.  Equations and studies in psychology and mathematics such as Hick’s Law (the time it takes to make a decision increases as the number of alternatives increase) and Fitts’ Law (time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target) are some of the adaptive studies in the area of UX.

UX is Now More Important Than Ever

We live in an era of never-ending choice.  Do I choose Nike or Adidas, Hewelet Packard or Apple?  The list goes on and on.  So why do we choose one over another?  One would argue that it’s the marketing that makes us buy the service or product.  Michael Bierut, however, believes that branding is a matter of context and that invokes feeling over time or after experiencing the product.  The logo is a direct tie to past experience with that product or service.  I feel that brand equity is built through good experiences and not a marketing campaign.  Marketing gets you to buy initially, but experiences comfort the consumer and trigger them to stick with the brand.

Genius is born when you are selling the experience initially and the product secondarily.  This is what Apple has done with their iPhone and now iPad commercials.  They are selling the experience of ease-of-use.  From an industrial design perspective, their products are extremely minimalistic.  They are really just black and grey rectangles, so the experience (not the physical product) is at the center. Their marketing plan aims to sell experiences that their products create.

UX in Higher-ed

UX as it pertains to higher education sites is extremely important, but at the same time extremely difficult.  It’s difficult on several plains.  Part of UX is creating simplicity, which is extremely hard to do when a site has to communicate to such a broad range of users. It becomes even more complex when stakeholders fail to fully grasp all possible benefits of UX, including its proven cost-saving potential.

Since the website may be the first experience that a person has with an instituion’s brand, the experience on that site should reflect the experience and quality of that institution.

User anxiety is created when too many choices are given, not enough choices are given, visual distracts are rendered, affordances are left out, or content is not findable.  When a site fails to invoke action or a feeling of confidence, that lack of experience becomes tied to that brand for that user, and possibly anyone else who that person tells.

Putting it Together

By understanding what users want from a site and making those things seem easy to do, a rich experience is created which directly ties “good” with the institution’s brand.  I think the coined phrase “make good” by Whitney Hess is the easiest way to summarize all of this.  If you “make good” and you test and refine the thing you are trying to make good, then you are doing your best at enabling a good experience.

Chad Hietala