Let’s use Apple as an example of this. Apple computers tend to have a “simple” experience attached to them. When you pick one out, there are relatively few choices – three models to choose from (as opposed to Dell, which has LOTS of models to choose from). Macs come with all the software a consumer needs to start out – basic writing, email, photo, video, and web apps – all conveniently installed. And even those apps are simple – iMovie is extremely easy to use, for example – it’s highly visual. Even the power button is simple – it’s the only button on my Mac, as opposed to my kid’s HP laptops – they have a good 5-6 buttons that do a variety of things (including hiding the power button for the uninitiated).
But is my Mac REALLY simple? Think about iMovie again. That scrolling, visual timeline of the video is anything BUT simple to create. It’s simple for the user, sure… but I’ll bet there’s some extremely complicated coding going on on the back end of that visual scroll bar!
We can do this with our websites, too. Our goal should be this – Think simple… always. Can we have detailed functionality? Yes – as long as it doesn’t get in the customer’s way. Our goal should be to keep the customer focused on the task at hand – and that task should NEVER be to figure out how your website works. Let’s keep our website innards out of the customer’s way!
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.
So 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.