Experience is King: Experiential Design & Development Is The Way To Increased ROI
Every digital initiative is an exercise in connecting humans with machines in a meaningful way. Holding everything else equal, a better experience leads to greater engagement. The key word here is “better.” Let’s unpack the meaning of better in my context for design and development. Better means a continuous effort towards improving user experience vs. a static project with a finite beginning and end. Similar to SEO, there is no endpoint for experiential design and development. There is no lasting point of stasis, and creating an engaging customer experience is a target constantly in motion. There are four key elements to successful experiential design and development: observing, understanding, improving, and repeating.
How do you better understand a user's engagement with an experience? You observe, collect data, measure, and apply those observations towards improvement. Heat mapping is one of many examples of direct observation.
Crafting an engaging experience is rarely only about creating a more beautiful or elegant design. It’s about understanding the ever-changing expectations of the user. To understand in a meaningful way, we must account for not only observed data, but also larger context. Additional exogenous data such as macroeconomic trends, user trends, and technology trends are just as important. Understanding is an evergreen effort.
Activation on your observations and understanding of the customer experience is an ongoing, artful mixture of design and utility. You need highly skilled UI/UX designers and developers that can translate data into new experiences. You need to take risks, create a new experience, and test it.
This is not a static world. Project-based approaches give you one shot to understand the user and to invest in an experience. You do your best to capture requirements from stakeholders, subject matter experts, and users; however; that data represents a specific moment in time. Like a photo, the world keeps going after a picture is taken. I hope you took a quality snapshot, because you are going to live with it for the next 18 - 36 months or more. Staying relevant requires iterating with the process.
Old School Approach
In the best case, waterfall initiatives provide a parabolic ROI curve (see image below). If you're lucky, you will squeeze some height out of the curve. At some point your returns will diminish and you may need to rework your experience.
Over the last 5 years we’ve seen an emerging paradigm shift in the approach to web development. In short, there’s a confluence of variables -- such as emerging technologies and the addition of touchpoints from mobile, watches, tablets, and virtual reality-- all driving users to expect rapidly-changing brand experiences. This goes so far as users possibly perceiving experiences as adapting to their needs. Traditional waterfall approaches (and yes, most “agile” initiatives are really just waterfall) by design cannot meet this demand.
Meeting Today’s Demand
Continued experiential improvement is the way to break this cycle and the best way to start your up-and-to-the-right ROI. Experiential Design & Development minimizes initial investment and maximizes ROI.
In future posts, I’ll make the financial case for the benefits of Experiential Design & Development approach, provide a practical example, and explore activation and innovation.