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Ask the Expert: How to Go Beyond Technology with Experience Design

Have you ever had a truly terrible User Experience? Whether it’s a chatbot that misses the mark, an automated answering service that leaves you in search of a live person or an online payment portal that just doesn’t add up –  these experiences are unfortunately one of the ties that bind us.

Thankfully, the bar for User Experience seems to inch upward every day. With the cloud, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and other technologies finding their footing in the world, User Experience is rapidly changing.

But User Experience isn’t what we’re here to talk about today – not quite. “Experience Design” is the more accurate term. Check out this Q&A with Joel Osman, Maven Wave’s Managing Director, Experience Design, to find out why.

How would you describe the difference between User Experience and Experience Design?

Historically, User Experience has had a technical connotation in that it’s designing screens and interfaces for web or mobile applications. While there’s a User Experience attached to those technologies – design can fall down to a “technology first” approach in the way many think about it. The reason we like to use the term Experience Design is that it’s broader. It’s about a full human experience – whether it’s for your customers or your employees – and it can be about much more than technology. With an Experience Design focus, you see opportunities for impact beyond just looking at the technology, you see how the overall experience can affect change.

That’s the way we view User Experience and Design at Maven Wave. We know clients want to utilize all this great new cloud technology – but advise them to think about the experience first and let the technology drive towards it. We talk a lot about the differences between User Experience supporting the use of technology and Experience Design driving real outcomes.

What are current end-user demands when it comes to User Experience?

You hear about the continued consumerization of technology. I think people have expectations of how they interact with technology that, over the past few years, have been driven mainly by their home and personal experiences. And we see that infusing the workplace, especially for younger workers, who have grown up around all this personal technology, social networking, and mobile apps. They are disappointed at work when they encounter the big, boring form-based screens and archaic systems many companies use today. In today’s world, technology experiences at work often lag behind the technology we use at home. What’s happening from an Experience Design viewpoint is that end users are bringing expectations driven by home technology experiences with them to work. Doing a B2B digital commerce project recently, we were all pointing to the online shopping experience, saying “It has to be as good as that. I can do this when I buy from home. Shouldn’t the B2B purchasing experience be just as good?”

We talk a lot about how enterprise systems need to be “consumer grade” in terms of their experiences. So that personal use has really set the bar for digital experiences for consumer applications certainly, but it’s infused into the enterprise as well.

What are the top two pieces of advice you find yourself giving regarding Experience Design?

I want us all to think experience first. I advocate stepping back from technology and thinking about the experience. For example, with voice bots and chatbots, it’s easy to think, well there are no screens to design so I’ll just throw this to my technology team to start building. I talk to clients and say, even with something like a voice bot that has no screen, you still have to step back and design the ideal conversational experience. It’s easy to get enthralled by the shiny object concepts of these amazing new technologies and what they can provide, but I always say, think experience first to help utilize the technology more effectively.

The other piece of advice is to think broadly about your experience. Don’t get stuck on – “we need a portal” or “we need a mobile app” or “we need this technology or that technology”  Ask what experience are you trying to build? Maybe a portal isn’t what you need at all. Recently, I’ve heard companies say “we need a chatbot”. I like to ask, “Do you really? Why don’t we step back and see what the customer experience should look and feel like, and then we’ll decide if a chatbot is the right answer.”

What’s the #1 mistake that enterprises make in this area?

I’ll give you two. One has to do with thinking about Experience Design too much up front and not throughout the life of a project. Most companies are starting to be more agile; they’re trying to do development in a rapid, iterative fashion. But there’s still sometimes a mindset of, Experience Design is all done up front, then I throw it over the wall and have my development team build it using agile. You do want to start with designing the right experience, but then want to make sure your design is ongoing and is as agile as the development approach. At Maven Wave, we talk a lot about Agile-Integrated Design. We believe you need to be agile in design the same way one can be agile in development. There are too many organizations saying, “We hired someone to do the UX for six weeks, and then they’re going to throw it over to someone else to go build it.” You can’t just stop design after those first few weeks and expect your development team to interpret those designs and work towards the right experience.

The other mistake is not connecting Experience Design with development efforts. I’ve talked to many, many clients who have developed very good artifacts around personas or journey maps and have done a lot of work to get into the minds of their customers. They complete these deliverables, and then they go off and build something losing sight of those experiences. I will often ask clients, “How are your development teams or your offshore IT teams using those personas and journey map artifacts? How are you connecting the user research and Experience Design artifacts to the IT developers and what they’re building?” We often see a big gap there. You may do a great job thinking about the experience, but if you’re not connecting it to development it gets lost.

We focus a lot with clients on connecting the dots between Experience Design and Agile-Integrated Design through the use of specialized approaches and artifacts.

How does the cloud change the Experience Design conversation? How about new technologies?

From an Experience Design standpoint, I think the most important technologies are some of the newer ones that come from using the cloud, such as machine learning and specifically natural language processing (NLP). They open up a whole new world of potential experiences. So when that phone I’m carrying can look at things and know what they are, imagine the type of interactive customer experiences I can build around that. If a Google Home or my phone can understand what I’m saying in common conversation, it opens up tremendous opportunities beyond a traditional screen with an OK and Cancel button.

Google just launched the Google Cloud Search product, which is taking all of Google’s knowledge and technology behind search and making it available within the enterprise. So now, in the same way you can Google any topic, you can go into a company version of Google and search throughout your enterprise – people, documents, information. It’s immensely powerful in creating new and dynamic employee experiences.

To learn more about Maven Wave’s Experience Design work and approach, click here.

November 27th, 2018

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