The evolution of design – from ‘web design’ to ‘customer experience’

What do branding, interaction design, content, and even NPS (Net Promoter Score) have in common? The customer.

At some point, we completely changed how web design was described. We began expanding beyond just web, added additional channels and layers, and then realised that this ‘interface’ is the where the website and the user meet. We called it User Experience (UX) or the even nicer sounding, and more popular right now, Customer Experience (CX).

This was a revelation – why design anything if it’s not being designed for the customer? You know… the customer; the person who completes the task we need to keep our jobs? They buy this, subscribe to that and come into your service based businesses? The customer is the only reason your company exists. Though there may be one or two different customer ‘types’, must we accept a broad definition of customer, as they are the only reason we all have jobs.

Human Centered Design

This transition from ‘design’ to ‘customer experience’ has been an important step in formalising the process of placing the user at the heart of the design methodology. We refer to this as Human Centered Design (HCD). Yes, the clue is in the title. We must consider how actual humans will interact with the interface. If the interface is carefully designed, with the aim of helping the customer achieve their goal, chances are more people will complete the task.

The hardest part about HCD is acutely being true to the human. Once you understand the role your brand plays in your customer’s life, you stand a chance of delivering on this. With the exception of a few brands, if you think your brand is in the top 10 things on your customer’s mind each week, you’re probably not ready to really get into Human Centred Design.

Human Centered Branding

So, if we understand customers enough to do CX, and the customer interaction is important, why don’t we have Human Centered Branding? Who exactly is the customer? With branding (and I mean the whole brand, not just the logo), often the first ‘customers’ are internal staff. However, it’s important to remember that this needs to transition to the end customer as well. Branding can use lofty language and philosophies, so it’s important for those working on it to ask the question: does this make sense to the humans that interacts with it?

I couldn’t tell you what the official corporate branding of Virgin Australia is, but if I was going to look at their Human Centered Branding, it would be based around: “a fun, helpful experience”. No matter the question asked on a Virgin flight (and I do ask a lot of random questions whilst flying, for some reason), the staff always know how to deliver a “Virgin Australia brand experience”. This is because their brand is so well understood internally that they can easily bring that to life for me, the customer.

Human Centered Content

Flowing on from customer centric branding, why don’t we have Human Centered Content? I don’t mean just the written web or brochure content, I mean really thinking about every piece of content your customer consumes from your brand. Is your invoice helpful? Are the instructions clear for the customer (I’m looking at you Ikea….)? Is the phone support script customer focused and on brand? Do you actually have a strategy for customers interacting with your FAQs?

Think about what happens when a customer reads your FAQs, they are probably considering engaging with your product or service. However, something has gone wrong along the journey. They are either going to have their problem solved by reading the FAQs, and become an advocate, or they will fail to be helped and tell 10 people about how much you suck.

With this in mind, why would you not spend time heavily considering the content put in front of your customer in these moments? These content interactions can be turning points in the journey and tip the customer in your favour. Human Centered Content – get on it.

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) literally asks the customer if they would recommend the experience to another friend. How a customer feels about a brand or transaction is made up of each and every interaction (both in perception and reality); from the start, to the end, of that transaction. Therefore, every interaction should become “Customer Centered Blah”.

Companies that win don’t think CX is a design idea, or even a department, CX is your entire business model.

If you build a team that can think “Human Centred Everything”, your customers will end up having better experiences. You will create huge amounts of value for those customers and, in turn, increase your relevance.

Always put your customers first.

Are you ready for your next design sprint?