B is for Benefits

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When I talk to clients about experience design, or UX design, I tell them it’s all about the emotional response people have when they interact with your product, brand, or service.

Most people think emotions just happen, like they’re not something you can design for. So they just put something out there and hope for the best. They think one can’t control how people react to their products. While some of that’s true, you can stack the deck in your favor by simply asking the who, what, where, when, and how as it applies to end user benefits.

People need a reason to use and keep using something, so think about the benefits your product provides to the end user. By the way, don’t confuse benefits with features and functionality. The latter two are tangible attributes, whereas benefits are an outcome, the positive feelings one develops from interacting with your brand, service, or product.

When developing and designing something, it’s easy to get so bogged down in the minutiae that one doesn’t see the forest for the trees. We start to perceive benefits to the end user where there aren’t aren’t any. Products get larded up with bells and whistles that no one needs. Or worse, we get  another “me too” also-ran that’s no better than what’s already out there.

If you’re not providing your customers with some advantage over what already exists, then you’re not really designing an experience. You’re just putting out some product.

Consensus now, or argue later

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I have worked on a lot of products in my career and peoples’ ability to balance logic and emotions is woefully inadequate. People approach product design and development as if it were just a series of approved steps. It’s not. Design evolves. It should start from a very logical place and morph into something emotional. The key to a successful design is managing that transition.

The time to be logical is in the beginning, before anyone has had a chance to see anything. Use this time to build consensus, and not just about goals and objectives. Think ahead of the emotional responses you are looking for – from the team, the stakeholders, and especially the end users.

Don’t move forward with the design process until you’ve done this, or you’ll be sorry. As people start to see things, the design becomes more tangible and their reactions more visceral. Unfortunately, most people can’t articulate their emotional responses, especially when their expectations aren’t met.

Achieve consensus around the emotional responses you are looking for, and be specific. Do this upfront and don’t show anyone anything until everyone agrees. Having a common language around emotions will enable you and everyone else involved to communicate more effectively as the design process evolves.