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!

Usability Goes Halfway

me on the iphoneUsability is great – you want to have a website that’s usable, right? Lots of organizations do usability studies – even pay for them. But you know what? Usability only tells half the story. And that’s bad.

Here’s what I mean. Usability deals with traffic control – it answers things like “can they click it?” or “Do they understand the signage?” Usability tends to deal primarily with real estate – with structure (or with the “actual building”). But that’s only one part of the whole problem.

Even one of the fields that usability comes from is suspect – HCI, or Human Computer Interaction. What’s wrong here? The whole focus is on human to computer, or computer to human. I’m not always interacting with the machine anymore. When I blog, tweet, send a Facebook update … when I add a video to YouTube or a photo to Flickr … Yes, I’m interacting with “the machine” to get my stuff into my account, so it appears on the web. But I’m also interacting with the person at the other end – the viewer/reader/watcher/commenter. And to me, that interaction is the goal – not the computer interaction.

Let’s go a bit further with our websites. Start working on the whole experience – not just a tiny part of it. Think of it this way: do you want a website that is functional, or one that engages people? One that maybe even “delights?” That page is designed for the experience – not just for usability.

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

Revitalizing the Library Experience – ALA2009

Speakers – Joan Frye Williams and George Needham


The Classic Objections:
– it will never work
– we tried that…
– our patrons etc won’t like it ..
– etc

Stop thinking of the Library Experience as the library experience. When we talk about that, we usually focus on what we do.

They’ve visited lots of libraries, and found out there’s not often a true customer focus.

We need to think more about what the user does, and who they are!

Joan mentioned TSCPL! They love our mission statement – “you know us, and we know you.” (cool – I wrote that part :-)

Being held back by confidentiality – we often go for ignorance & call it privacy and confidentiality

The independent user is invisible to us.

Re-imagine the user experience!!! Yes. The experience belongs to the user.

If we imagine the user as our audience, we get mad when they don’t applaud us. Interesting thought…

Patrons should start feeling successful right when they walk into the library – just like when they use google (ie., there’s no user manual for google)

situational signage

Shouldn’t have to use our jargon just to get started (hmm… databases fails here…)

Environments that learn from and adapt to the user is the right way to go

New ways to experience library service – layered services. A way to unfold what the library offers

Time: layer services depending on how much time the patron has
Ex – quick start guide vs complete manuals
So – set up libraries for both the “I have no time” patron tot he “I can spend a day here” patron

Place: layer services by place.
– the users aren’t remote – the services are.
– the library experience takes place outside the library.
– all social networking, web, etc certainly does. iPhone apps, Facebook are examples
– Showing barcodes on signs – scan it with phone, get local info – b-tags.
– me – could you set up a b-tag for a “fact of the day” and put it in a park/mall/on the street/in a school? Hmm…

Make sure it’s always about them, never about us

First Impressions:
– how does your place look on a first impression?
– how many of you use the same doors/bathrooms as the patron?

Get out from behind the desk

Org chart/service points – circ desk, ref desk, etc. For the patron, it’s all part of the same story.

First point of contact – driving around building, walking into the library, etc. Who does the intercept? Usually the shelver.
– deploy staff around the library, standing up – you will increase the number of interactions
– make this intercept so that everyone, building, etc can make that intercept universal

Triage – figuring out some choice to make.
– we act as if we are the arbiters of triage (ie., the reference interview). Instead, most people do this themselves. You watch the other people instead of talking to staff. It HAS to be self-service.

I have a stupid question… translation – your library, setup, etc  just made someone feel stupid. Not a good thing.

Outcomes: When a patron needs to use a computer to do a job search, the goal isn’t to find a guide or do a job search … it’s to find a job.

Patrons are looking for staff that want to enter into their success…
– gave an example of an academic library – student said here’s what you do – find a librarian you can work with, who seems to care, and they will help you ace any class. Didn’t say they will help you find a book… They are looking for success, and we need to set up our libraries that way.

Main goal – get people to come back – it’s all about relationships… not stuff.

Revitalize your point of view.

“Libraries are at a crossroads” – actually, everyone’s at a crossroads. Successful libraries help guide people through their crossroads. There are a lot of common ones – ie., birth, marriage, divorce, retirement, getting a job, etc.

Wane Gretsky – “I don’t skate to the puck, I state to where the puck is going to be.” Libraries can do this, too – we know some common transformations/crossroads – so how can we be there at those crossroads for them?

Communication of meaning – that’s the business we’re in. Google can’t do this. We should be building this across the community. It’s not transactional, it’s not about the stuff. The setup of transformation is a heck of a job to be in.

Staff is also at a crossroads:
– start treating people like they’re smart and independent.
– presumption of innocence – don’t defend against potential disaster.
– the reference desk – feels like the seat of shame.
– respect and remember their preferences.
– look for ways to say yes.

Give respect and get respect – you have to treat every connection as if it has a transformative potential.

The library experience has that long, transformative view. It’s not about the transaction.

Steps to Mapping a Customer’s Journey

Designing the Digital ExperienceAwhile back, I sent Valeria Maltoni (who writes the cool Conversation Agent blog) a copy of my bookDesigning the Digital Experience.

She’s been reading it, and blogged about it (very awesome – thanks, Valeria)! And in the process, she has some really good pointers about mapping the customer journey (which I wrote about in Chapter 11). She came up with some steps to mapping a customer’s journey:

  1. Connect the dots between internal preparedness and external needs – overcoming internal processes and barriers that block you from giving your customer a better “journey”
  2. Integrate what you say with what you do – “How are all of the messages you’re sending out in each medium integrating with the feedback you receive in that medium, for example? What are you learning and feeding back into the process?”
  3. Innovate at each touch point – “What process or tool have you not updated for a long time and needs revisiting, for example?”

… and each point discusses the “moment of truth” found in each of those steps.

Go read the whole post – good stuff there!