Building Consistent Digital Experiences for Today’s Customers
Every day, we’re interacting with more and more digital touch points – our laptops, tablets, mobile devices, smart watches – and while organizations are embracing the opportunity to interact with their customers across these touch points, marketplace trends are showing they’re struggling to manage and support their fast growing number of applications and the overall experience is fragmented.
We’ve heard first hand from clients that while they would consider themselves lucky to keep the existing experiences they have, up and running – saving no time or resources for innovating new experience or even to make sure their existing experiences are cohesive.
Maintaining a large number of digital touch-points increases the likelihood for customers to be presented with a variety of experiences that are not entirely consistent. Organizations need to reorient their utilization of each touch point as a single, stand-alone experience, and consider how each one contributes to the holistic picture of the experience they’re creating for their customers.
While organizations want to be able to have interconnected pieces that work together quickly and flawlessly, most organizations end up in (what we call) a Digital Birds Nest, where there are so many pieces, if you move one thing, you have to move three others - which leads to innovation paralysis.
It’s about agility and innovation with consistency. Organizations that can instantly respond to the needs of their customers in their digital touch-points have been proven to be more successful.
How can we rapidly adapt to meet user expectations while still providing consistency, stability and usability?
Create standards for how your brand exists digitally – a living, breathing set of guidelines that helps to shape your approach when you’re creating a new touch point – including how you use certain user experience paradigms, standards for architecture, integration and insights.
Maintaining too many disconnected applications (designed by different vendors, accomplishing different goals, etc.), you end up spending more time and resources to maintain an experience when you could innovate and build something completely new.
Innovate at the experience layer, not at the platform layer.
For any app experience, you have logistics – setting up account information, etc. – then there’s the experience - what it is you’re trying to accomplish with that application. Innovation should not be happening on the back-end. The backend should be a stable and standardized platform that you can use for any of your digital touchpoints. If you standardize a platform that remains the same, you can spend your time innovating to better the end-user experience.
Before you can do design around a users context, you have to understand what their context is. You have to research users in context of the users using your digital touch points. Surveys do not give you the whole story, they’re not sufficient – sometimes people don’t know what their problems are and observation is the only way to fully understand their experience.
People assume they know their users. They don’t. You have to go through the actual process of the user to be able to relate. Through this research, you’re able to take user segments and develop those into user personas. These personas fuel the decisions we make from a design perspective, a story-planning perspective for functionality, and through the development phase.
You also have to consider the users process as they use the solutions we create – you can evaluate their positive and negative points in their experience using journey mapping.
A good question to ask yourself is, who is tasked with building an understanding of your users within your organization? If you don’t know the answer to that, it might be slipping through the cracks. Someone needs to continually focus on the user as their needs and expectations change over time.
In order to build a strategy, you first need to clearly define what success is. When you have a clearly defined objective of success, it becomes easier for everyone to evaluate suggestions for the digital touch point. There has to be something tangible that you can tie back in to your business value and how you’re meeting the needs of your customers.
Once you all have a clear picture of what success looks like, you can discuss budget - budget for a product, not a project. The mobile landscape changes hourly – new devices, new updates, operating systems, etc. – when you budget for an experience, you have to budget for success. Most mobile apps require at least 30% of their initial build cost year after year, solely for maintenance – not even including feature updates. When you create your budget, budget for technology updates, addressing user feedback and for experience fixes.
Lastly, you have to plan to measure your results – both the business value and the users experience.
When you consider platform, context and strategy, you can innovate with consistency and agility. By standardizing a platform, you can spend your time and resources innovating at the experience level. By understanding the user, you can design for their context and map their journeys. And lastly, by conveying a clear idea of what success looks like, you can align a team and ensure everyone is after the same goal.