Why is it that we fall in love with some products while others fall by the wayside? Why do we stand in line for hours for shiny pocket-sized rectangles? Having been that guy, I would offer that it’s not just the shiny little rectangle that captivates us, rather it’s the sum of many experiences surrounding that product that steal a user’s heart. It’s the integrity of the product ecosystem that enchants us.
You can think of a product ecosystem as a score of music. Multiple instruments layered atop each other in a framework of harmony. Each instrument represents a domain of engagement with a user – such as advertising, acquisition, first use, sustained use, service and support, etc. The notes of the composition are points of contact with the user. These touch-points are everything you see, touch, hear, and think about revolving around a product. And equally as important – everything you do not see, touch, hear, and think about. The sum of which is either harmonious or disharmonious. Either enchanting or frustrating.
Why are there so many disharmonious product ecosystems out there? Why do so many user experiences break our hearts? For the same reason that bro at the gym has the arms of the incredible hulk, and the legs of a flamingo: a failure to focus on the larger picture. The development of individual touch-points requires constant review against the larger vision for the user experience so that all touch-points work in harmony with one another. Here are three ways to tie together harmonious end-to-end experiences, and make your user go from liking your product to loving it.
We’ve all seen a movie trailer so compelling that we buy tickets on opening night. Then, we see the movie and leave the theater only feeling disappointment and regret. That experience illustrates the expectation of cohesion, a single touch-point informing the next via continuity. By experiencing a single part of the product ecosystem, the user begins to build a construct of expectations around how they anticipate additional engagements to feel.
Cohesion is created by thoughtfully managing every visual, audio, interaction, and messaging element that comprise the user experience. This is more than just making your website responsive or look visually harmonious. Cohesion is about ensuring that the written voice on your site is the same as the voice used by call center staff. It is about teaching interactions to a user once, and building on that foundation to create confidence and empowerment.
If you’re reading this article on your mobile, you’re likely viewing it on a product with contextual awareness. It’s likely that the screen in front of you has a light sensor which dims the screen when you’re checking emails in bed at night-- or increases brightness when you’re in the park on a sunny day.
The growing fabric of sensors and data that blankets our lives is bringing an end to the one-size-fits-all mentality of product development. It requires us to understand when, where, and why consumers will use our products. And it’s that context that drives howsomething should behave.
An example: iPhone users might be familiar with is iOS’ traffic conditions notifications. Let’s say you commute to and from work and manage a relatively regular schedule every day. After some time, your phone begins to send you a notification as soon as you close the car door, “20 minutes to Home. Traffic is normal.” In this instance Apple has used multiple data points to build a contextual understanding of your travel habits, and offered a way to help.
By building contextual awareness into our user touch-points, we can better understand how to accommodate and even anticipate the real-time needs of the user. Notice I said “user,” and not “users.” Contextual awareness brings individuality to the way in which a user experiences the product and the broader ecosystem. When done right, the user’s expectations with any given touch-point are met and exceeded.
In his 10 principles of good design, Dieter Rams states good design is “as little design as possible.” Good design focuses our interactions on only what is essential. Autonomy when intelligently applied to a product ecosystem, can be the arbiter of simplicity. It can enable a product to take action on our behalf, and for our benefit, in order to free us from non-essential interaction. Autonomy can liberate us from the frustrations of the human/machine interface. It allows us to focus on living better lives.
Intelligence is the key to creating successful autonomous experiences. So, it’s no surprise that products with learning algorithms baked into their DNA are paving the way for such experiences. The Nest Thermostat analyzes your heating and cooling behavior over time and uses this data to predict and execute heating and cooling your home automatically. Eventually you don’t need to interact with it at all.
And what you do not interact with can be equally as important as what you do interact with. What don’t we want users to experience? What do they loath about the process today? How can textual awareness empower us to remove these concerns from the forefront of their mind?
Utilizing cohesion, contextual awareness and autonomy in your product design creates an ecosystem where the user feels empowered, understood, and taken care of. That sounds like the foundation of a wonderful relationship.