The digital world has forever changed the way we interact with brands. No longer the domain of brochures and billboards, your brand experience needs to extend way beyond the human touch - into all areas of the digital relationships your customers have with you.
Here to discuss how your brand can amplify your UX is our valued partner, Jerome from UX agency Macadamia.
Us humans, we’re social beings. We enjoy being around people so it’s no surprise that, on the whole, we prefer dealing with people in our day to day lives, and this includes using products and services.
Business is operating at increasing scale within the world-economy. Commercial objectives and operational efficiencies are driving this 3rd industrial revolution we’re in - the result being exponential rates of digitisation and automation of the products and services we use in our day to day.
This hasn’t waned our innate preference to deal with people we like. The challenge here for designing human-computer interactions is making a computer (I.e. a digital experience) as competent, empathetic and likeable as possible.
So, in-lieu of having all our experiences (i.e. services) provided by a lovely human, our lives require us to deal with computers. Luckily, they’re getting smarter. Advancing fields such as AI mean that we can now find out the weather without asking a human or touching a screen, with Google Home you can say “Okay Google … what’s the weather today?” and have your own Google Assistant tell you if you need your umbrella or sun-hat.
When designing products and services today businesses have the opportunity to be innovative and align their offering across multiple channels. This brings about its own challenges, which we’re going to examine below as do’s and don’ts.
Let’s start with the don’ts
Don’t stop evolving
Brands are always evolving. This means that the experiences need to evolve as well. The relationship between both is likely more intimate in younger businesses like start-ups since they’re iterating both at the same time from the beginning, but there’s no reason that more established businesses (who often have their product, brand in a more fragmented situation) can’t start doing the same.
Just remember that the brand guidelines need to be in place before the final touches are put on a designed-experience. A good example is Domino’s Pizza who are now seen increasingly as an eCommerce company rather than a pizzeria. They’ve taken advantage of geo-tracking technology and users can now track where their order is rather than calling the shop to ask, “how far away is my large Hawaiian?”. Users can also split bills on the platform which is an excellent example of using technology to evolve by solving a specific, common customer-problem.
Don’t make unexplained changes
Looking from the outside-in, a business’s brand can be seen to have several components; UVP (Unique Value Proposition), Personality, Mission and Experience. Much like UX/CX design, branding is not a linear process. This places importance on telling the story and whether this is shown or told, customers and users trust those they understand. Dropbox even devoted a micro-site (dropbox.design) to explain their rebrand, which coupled with their progressive onboarding made for a smooth transition even for seasoned-users like myself.
Most businesses already have existing solutions for users. When making updates to these, especially at scale, it’s important to communicate to users the story behind the changes. Think of it like dealing with the same bank manager for years, there’s established trust there and a general understanding that facilitates a more seamless, efficient experience. If one day you go into the bank and the manager has changed unbeknownst to you, you’ll have to go through a whole new ‘getting to know you’ period with the replacement before the experience will be as seamless as it was before, even if the new manager is actually better.
Speaking digitally this change of manager can be seen as a combination of brand language and function. The ‘getting to know you’ period can be seen as onboarding. Conveying a story, the reasoning for changes and assisting the learning process can manage change and highlight to users the benefit of the ‘new’ way of doing things. The result will be a shorter uptake to a positive experience.
Don’t do everything
There are few things here:
- Know when brand-proprietary concepts should take a backseat to user experience. In other words, don’t try and reinvent the wheel every time. This means that industry standard iconography (such as Google’s material design) can often provide a more intuitive user response. The same goes for micro-animations - less is more.
- Don’t try to use every technology available if it doesn’t suit your users or fall in-line with your brand. For example, not every site requires a pop-up asking users to sign up for their mailing list, especially if it’s the users first time or if they’ve come from a search engine link. This overuse of technology can not only be annoying to the user but also a costly exercise in knowing one’s users. WhatsApp’s Snapchat clone called ‘Status’ doesn’t seem to be having widespread user adoption, although Instagram has had greater success with the feature. So, doing one thing well is better than doing multiple things not so well, WhatsApp is a P2P secure messaging/calling service - this is what users go there for, not for social media.
So, what should a business do?
Do aim for the experience to be a UVP, whilst maintaining consistency
Particularly if your brand-ethos is customer-service centric, practicing UX methodologies when designing experiences almost goes without saying. Elements of a sound brand guideline will be referred to by a product team in ideating sessions, ensuring that products or experiences that don’t innately represent the brand don’t make it ‘out the other side’. Of course, there are several influencing factors in creating new products/services, some of which can’t be ignored like commercial viability and bottom-line. These sorts of influences often lead to selling space for advertising, something which WhatsApp founders (if we can use them again) have openly voiced their disdain towards advertising-based business models. They’re a business who’ve focussed their engineering on a simple user experience and secure messaging, which is certainly in-line with the app’s brand - providing a way to “stay in touch with friends and family, anytime and anywhere” and that is the UVP for which keeps users coming back, over 1 billion of them in fact.
Do personify your brand to satisfy or preferably exceed user-expectations
Ensure branding has a clear voice, then translate this into a user experience. Today, this is often talked about as a personality....why? Since digital experiences are becoming more comprehensive and human-like, users expect language and cues that are authentic, trustworthy and friendly.
In the same way we profile users as personas, you can give distinct human-characteristics to your brand. By having a more human approach to branding, a more human-centric experience will be possible.
Putting in place a robust brand guide that can be translated effectively into seamless experiences includes establishing colours, language and imagery. Depending on the technologies and digital services a business is offering, this may in fact extend through to voice, for example with Apple’s Siri, Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa.
Do keep an eye on big players’ new function-releases and new technologies to be offering services and products to users in the latest manner they feel comfortable with.
I attended Startcon at the beginning of 2017 where Andrew Chen (Uber, Growth Team) was the keynote. He kept reiterating that reading the API documentation of big tech players can lead to some fantastic, innovative strategies, products and services. These documents are open for everyone to read and are surprisingly easy to understand (on the whole). So, when Canon printers found out about the Instagram API’s new endpoints, they built a printer that via an app allows users to print directly from their Instagram account. New businesses have emerged like FourSixty who make businesses’ Instagram feeds shoppable, couple this with their Google Analytics integration and there’s a great little eCommerce add-on that works well for businesses of all sizes.
Emerging fields like AI are forging new directions for software systems. Hardware is also advancing with increasingly realistic headsets for VR, more powerful smartphones with significant AR applications as well as the Internet of Things revolution we’re facing. This is providing an array of mediums for businesses to offer their products/services to users.
Knowing one’s brand and how it looks, feels and even speaks is essential, as is providing a quality experience to users that’s consistent across each touchpoint. Any shortcuts or gaps in your approach will only weaken the impact of your products.
Thanks for reading!