My experience design manifesto

My experience design manifesto is based on the idea of experiences being floopy, gloopy things suspended in the flowing stream of our lives. Picture life as a river, and imagine cleaning a paintbrush in it (which isn’t very environmentally friendly and the imaginary version of yourself should feel ashamed of being bullied into it by a blog post). The speed of the water pulls the colour from the brush and creates patterns of influence in the water. Some will diminish more quickly than others, but all of the colour will be there to some extent. Of course, it’s biggest and brightest during the ‘activity,’ when the water comes into contact with the stimulus. But there will always be traces.

This post is an instruction manual to my future self – my experience design manifesto. It details the design principles at the heart of my design philosophy. They provide a north star that directs my focus as I try to ‘shape the stimulus’ to make sure the user gets the most colour from the brush.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

It takes a range of skills, knowledge and expertise to devise and create effective experiences. This isn’t just about individuals possessing a broad range of skills with a few deep trenches of expertise – I’m not talking about T-shaped people here. I’m mainly talking about teams. This is my blog, so a lot of the time I’m talking about me and my ideas. But I’ve never solved a problem on my own. Whether it’s passive or active, always engage with the people and things around you, they make your work better..

This awareness of the whole should not be limited to the way you work – also think in these terms when considering the things you’re making. Our products don’t exist in a vacuum. Always consider the whole. Don’t just design the website, try to design the experiences that it will facilitate. Be generous. Play to your strengths and find people who fill in any gaps.

Build something that belongs to the audience

In branded, signature experiences, control is the most difficult element to balance. Designers need to look at projects from the organisation and the user perspective. Experiences belong to the audience, but the organisation must have some control over the stimulus that affords the experience, otherwise why is the organisation there in the first place?

Help organisations consider the level of control they need to retain to maintain the authenticity of their role in the experience. But give the audience room to love and own it enough to become advocates.

Signature experiences are about creating a coherence that ensures users know what to expect, and yet still being able to surprise and delight them.

Search for simplicity

Being authentic can be easy. Try to peel away the layers of the current experience to understand what makes what you offer special and unique. Look for ways to add elements to reinforce and extend this identity, while keeping in mind how these elements will operate across different platforms, technologies and use scenarios.

Find out who you are and what you do well – then do more of it.

Positive experiences are easy to understand and explain to someone else. The best way to create fans and advocates is to enable fans to tell their story of your relationship.

Keep up the standards

Every audience member is different. Users also exist across a range of contexts – my priorities change depending on time, location, device, mood… by understanding the range of experiences you need to support, you can design flexibility and adaptation.

But don’t reinvent the wheel for each user. Defining, explaining and supporting standard ways of doing things will then make signature  experiences a reality. Standards make things easier for designers and users. Standards bind experiences together.

Never write the user out of the experience

[blockquote]Without the capacity to provide its own information, the mind drifts into randomness.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The psychology of optimal experience[/blockquote]

Engaging  experiences are marked by interplay between the skill and control of the user on one hand and the level of interactivity, challenge and immersion afforded by the stimulus.

Experiences should always feel participatory. Not all experiences will feel the same, but they should belong in the family. Invite the user to be part of the ‘family’ of your experience and respect the role they will play. Exceed expectations, but build an environment that sets them high.

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