Writing an Experience Brief

Designing the Digital Experience was reviewed!I just realized that I mentioned using an Experience Brief in my book and in some of my presentations, but haven’t explained much about actually writing one. Since it’s something I want to do for my library’s website, I decided to do some “how-to” research on writing experience briefs … here’s what I found.

First of all – what exactly is an Experience Brief? It’s related to the Creative Brief, from marketing land. A Creative Brief is used to succinctly describe all the stuff the creative group plans to do to promote a new product. An experience brief uses that same concept … but helps define the experiences a customer should experience while using your website.

An Experience Brief is summed up by 8sharp: “The Experience Brief goes beyond “look and feel” and asks, “What is the experience we want the user to have?””

37signals’ ebook, Getting Real, gives another brief taste of what an Experience Brief is all about. “So what should you do in place of a spec? Go with a briefer alternative that moves you toward something real. Write a one page story about what the app needs to do. Use plain language and make it quick. If it takes more than a page to explain it, then it’s too complex. This process shouldn’t take more than one day.” They don’t really mention writing an experience brief … but writing a one page story about what the app/website needs to do IS a way to focus completely on the experience of the site/app.

MJ Braide goes a bit further in Get More From Brand Strategy Part Two: The Experience Brief. Here are some relevant quotes from the article:

  • “The Experience Brief is designed to help focus on the experiences that have the greatest impact on those that matter most to you. It begins with an inventory of the major interactions with whomever you consider to be your most important audiences.”
  • “For each of the most important groups, target experiences are defined that are closely linked to the brand promise. Important: this is about THEM not about YOU. It is the impressions, feelings and beliefs that you want to occur in THEIR minds, through what you do.”
  • “As with the Creative Brief, the Experience Brief is then used by every division and department of the organization to inform service standards, interaction protocols and whatever else the playbook demands, based on your strategy and the economics of your relationships.”

Finally, some words of advice from Advertising Age – What Are You Packing Into Your (Creative) Briefs?

  • Think simple. The more sophisticated the brief, the simpler it should be. The more glissandi and grace notes the piece has, the harder it is to play.
  • More spaces to fill present a greater opportunity for bad poetry. Avoid theoretical definitions; keep the language at the 8th-grade level.
  • It’s been suggested that you’ll know you’re onto something big when you can pitch the story in under 30 seconds. Can you deliver an elevator speech for your product? Are you writing it to be read?

Hope this helps! ANyone have anything to add? Do you know what goes into writing either an experience brief or a creative brief? Ever written one? Please share!

Create an Experience

Guess what? Your website visitors are experiencing something right now. Is it good or bad? Easy or hard? Do you know? The good web designer plans for and builds deliberate experiences into a website, rather than hoping for the best.

Think about it. Visitors to your website are always experiencing something while there that goes way beyond simple usability. Designing for usability alone only goes so far. You can test for usability until you’re blue in the face … and you know what you’ll end up with? A usable website. Period. Your customers might be able to navigate your website, but hate the overall experience. They might not have reached that user enchantment phase that Kathy Sierra talks about. Since you aren’t deliberately planning out the total digital experience your visitors have while on your site, their experience will be haphazard at best. You did, in fact, create an experience. Just an unplanned one.

good bookSo how do you plan an experience? For starters, do one thing – think about it. Sit down and deliberately think through the experience you want your customers to have while on your site. Have a brainstorming session. Out of that brainstorming session, create what’s called an Experience Brief – a short, no more than one-page document describing the experience customers should have while on your website. Don’t focus on products, content, or functionality – instead, describe the experience they have while there. Here’s a post that talks a bit more about writing experience briefs.

The key to writing an experience brief is this – focus on the customer at all times. Write the experiences your customer should have. Not key user interactions, not functionality the user should be able to do – but the experience the customer should have, from their viewpoint.

So – step one to creating an experience? Purposefully create and plan that experience.

pic by shifted, book by Aaron