As many of you know one of my favorite things is adding my years of consumer site and media testing experience to the design of web brands. More and more often, When I sit down to ideate and create I try to find relevant examples that prove the best use of the space combined with knowledge of best Web 2.0 practices and, ultimately, the ability to build usable sites.
Now, after a weeks of designing a sites that I feel good about, I take a step back and realize that sometimes those three things combined, to most clients, sounds ideal. But the result seems to produce results that are, to use a metaphor, like plain yogurt. A lot of people like plain yogurt and I'd say that plain yogurt is the safest of flavors, but it is tough to get passionate, sassy or even evangelize plain yogurt. You can put toppings on it, you can mash other things into it, but it is still plain yogurt.
The same can be said of most marketing campaigns. Now port that into the Web 2.0 world where presentation layer programing allows us some of the most flexibility of true design that I have ever seen. (remember I date back to text links for design)
I think that this is the difference between usability and user experience. I know that many people in the industry, particularly those in the field of user experience (including myself) , have been working to better define the difference, however, that definition has failed to reach the client-side decision-makers as well as the majority of agency side creatives. They continue to ask for usability and for in-industry best practices.
Here is the difference: User eXPerience is focused on ensuring that the targeted user gets the best experience possible based on the desired outcome for that user. For example, a user gets through a shopping cart without obstruction (in this case, it would be easy to say that the cart was "usable"). That is pretty straightforward and common; we optimize regularly to tighten a checkout process. In an UXP world we are looking for a "net - net " take away.
With a usability focus, you might provide your users with a different function that pairs them with their desired menu items much more quickly, but we know, from analytics, that they're going to get there and we need them to know something that may improve their experience with the site in the future. Ideally, that is user experience.
I fell in love with User eXPerience after reading my integrated marketing textbook from Kellogg. There were so many examples of how to improve a user experience through innovation, flow and design of the key objectives. As most of you know I am generally brought in to clean up messy, flat or unthoughtful user experiences. That is my job. A fresh set of innovative eyes with the power to revamp and relaunch.
Recently, I was highlighting the experience design for a site we are building. I had defensible statistics for just about everything; however, there was an audience member who simply could not break away from "web 1.0 practices of lots of clicking/digging to get to a tertiary objective of the site. It is those old school web design practices that do not allow the user to multi-task in one interface. In my opinion we were setting up the entire experience to be plain yogurt. And for a site with so much exposure they cannot afford plain yogurt they need a Tasty Freeze.
A persons experience can always be improved, and there is definitely room for usability improvements in all work product. However, we need to step back and ensure that a usability enhancement doesn't diminish the brand, nor does it minimize the overall experience. If we simply focused on in-industry (or competitive) best practices and pure usability (boring), we would end up with sites that mirror one another rather than deliver an experience that best reflects the company or campaign. Consumers would find it difficult to differentiate a brand best connected with on a more personal or emotional level.
Think about the real-world and notice the unique feel of each of these brand experiences: Target compared to Walmart, Best Buy to Circuit City, Dean and Deluca to Starbucks. These are pretty obvious examples of how experience differentiates a brand. now take that to the web where anything is possible and access is unlimited.
So here is my request to those of who manage brands and interactive departments - quit being a follower. don't design a web site. develop a brand experience. LEAD. Leading is risky - but the pay off is usually paved with rich results.
My Advise: "KNOW THYSELF" - Socrates "Know Thy Brand" - Mark Gobe
Know your customer
and consider his/her experience and what you want his branded takeaway to
How do you want your core consumer to feel?