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Total Experience Design – Why Should a Web Designer Care?

Web Design

August 7th, 2010

Paul Dawson of EMC Consulting

Paul Dawson of EMC Consulting

This is a guest post graciously contributed by Paul Dawson, who spoke at MIX10 about Total Experience Design. He runs a consulting blog and is Experience Director at EMC Consulting, one of the largest digital interactive agencies in Europe and about to go global. EMC bought Paul’s previous company, Conchango, about three years ago. He’s been in “new media” since it was — “new” that is, working on early day websites and multimedia work from 1996. Now he works with clients like Tesco, Virgin Atlantic and Barclays on digital experience strategies, as well as making the rounds talking about EMC Consulting’s approach to design; particularly their “Total Experience Design” philosophy.

Firstly, thanks to Roxanne for inviting me to guest on her blog. A rare privilege indeed. [You’re welcome, Paul; I’m honored to have you here!] She asked me to do something on the topic of Total Experience Design, something I talk about a lot, and the philosophy we take at EMC Consulting to Experience Planning.

To many, this philosophy seems so far away from what they do on a day to day basis, that I thought I’d look at why I think it should be of interest to anyone who “does design” regardless of the discipline they work in.

Total Experience Design essentially says that whatever it is you’re designing, you will benefit from thinking about the wider customer experience, regardless of channel or medium. In practice it means looking at the entire experience (before and after your “bit” of it) to uncover clues as to where the solution, or combination of solutions best sits, even if that means it ends up not being a website if you’re a Web designer.

Most often, there is a combination of factors that influences someone to do something, and typically, the stuff we do is the last mile of that journey. For example, the checkout page on an ecommerce site. Our responsibility there is very often “don’t mess it up”. i.e. the customer has decided to buy, and all we can do now is get in their way, so “design” becomes about reducing the barriers to completion.

Shopping Cart Hot Rod

Everyone's on Board - Now Don't Mess It Up!

I don’t know about you, but being the one being trusted with “not screwing things up” when all seemed to have been going swimmingly up to that point, never filled me with glee and joy; which is partly why Total Experience Design was so attractive.

By being the people who always stepped back and looked at the wider picture with clients, we did a couple of things:

1. We elevated our role from simple implementer to definer of strategy: Total Experience Design is a philosophy that really allows you to cut through the assumptions that your client makes, and helps you provide evidence to support where you think they should be going.

Fork in the Road

We Can Help Clients Choose the Right Direction, Wherever It Leads

2. We gained trust with our clients, by uncovering new opportunities that were not self-interested: Many web design agencies are constantly making suggestions on “strategy” to their client, which basically involves them designing more Web stuff. After a while, clients see through that… and what you tell them, instead of being “strategy” becomes a sales pitch, and moves you back down the rungs to not being so trusted. What clients really want  is an agency that is interested in making their business better and their customers happier; not an agency that is out to screw money out of them.

Car Salesman

With TxD, We Go From Salespeople to Strategists

But also, Total Experience Design widens the possibilities for a designer of any kind. By plotting a customer experience from the moment a thought enters their mind when reading a magazine, to reinforcing the idea through something said on Twitter or a Facebook status, to seeking out a source for what they’re looking for, to browsing and eventually shopping for it, right through to the moment it arrives on your doorstep, and the after-sales experience; telling your friends about it, getting support for it, customizing or buying accessories for it…

You name it, you could go as far as you want, and the point is, that this whole journey is littered with opportunities to enhance the experience digitally (social media, mobile, in-store display and other) and in other media. All these not only increase the likelihood of them completing check-out, but potentially give you more work as well.

Total Experience Design Diagram

Account for Every Part of the Customer Experience

Let’s say that in the above journey that we can find a reason to talk to the customer on Twitter before they’ve made up their mind on product choice. You say something that is reassuring, that sets their expectation for what will come later in the process, you might even simply be funny or amusing, or empathetic.

Even a small touch like this can make a big difference on that checkout page. You’ve heard of Zappo’s, right? It’s fair to say that they don’t have the best website in the world (sorry guys, I love you, but it’s true!), but because people love them so, they forgive it and get through it, just because they love dealing with Zappo’s. It’s what Lou Carbone would call emotional versus logical decision-making.

Julia Roy Loves Zappo's Shoes

Emotional Decision Making: We Love Zappo's, So We Put Up With an Imperfect Website

So when I come to the bit of the checkout process that you’ve struggled as a designer to make reassuring, and actually perturbs a few customers and has been the cause of some drop-outs of the process, if I’ve had that positive experience earlier on in the cycle I’m now thinking: “Hmm, that’s a bit weird, but they seemed so nice and responsive on Twitter, and I quite like them, so I’m sure it will be fine.” Whereas before I might have simply dropped out because there’s generally no emotional connection to a checkout process!

So in short, Total Experience Design can increase the likelihood of your existing design work being more successful. Which makes your client’s boss love him, which makes them love you, which makes them give you more work, which means you can now afford that holiday in the Bahamas, which is where you meet the man of your dreams, you move to the cottage of your dreams in up-state Vermont, raise two cats, three dogs, a horse and two children, and live happily ever after! Total Experience Design – the route to happiness…

Old Spice Guy With Ring

Total Experience Design: Your Life Is Now Diamonds!

Thanks again to Paul Dawson for contributing this stellar explanation of Total Experience Design as it relates to Web design. Now it’s your turn: Have you ever thought of solutions for a client that are technically outside your field? Were you able to implement them? Has your decision to purchase ever been influenced by your overall feelings about a company? Don’t be shy to leave a comment below!

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