When I was first getting into a career, I always said to myself as long as I am always going to be learning or discovering something new, I knew I was in the right career. I also said to myself, make sure I work for or alongside people that are always going to teach me something new and challenge me and vice versa.
Recently I was able to learn a new skill of creating and defining experience principles for brands, services and products. Now before I get ahead of myself about not only how amazing, powerful and influential experience principles are to help create and later guide a design, I should first explain what they are.
Experience principles describe the core values of the experience we are designing for, be that a product, service or even a brand.
The principles will define and communicate key identities to the product, service or brand. These are usually seen by a wide variety of stakeholders including clients, colleagues and team members. These experience principles should not always be hidden and locked away in a dark room somewhere. Google and Facebook for example make their experience principles public. They can be used to help guide users and the public in learning what is intended for them. This transparency helps build trust with users.
Once principles are defined they help articulate core goals that all decisions can be measured against throughout a design process, and even used once a product or service has been built. It will be used to help guide a service or product as it evolves with its users.
How do you get to these principles?
It’s not as simple as just plucking a principle from the air and saying ‘This is what I want the experience to be!’ based on your own biases from what you are designing. Like all good designers we need to consider the needs of who we are designing for, so we first need to ask ourselves a few questions.
What are our business goals? What is deemed as a successful design? What are the goals for the user, and their blockers? Once these are answered then you can begin to define your principles.
Answering these questions does not have to be as dry as sitting around a meeting room table for hours. Get creative, get people up out of their seats with workshops that will get people approaching the design challenge from a different view than usual. A workshop with the client or key stakeholders of the project is a great way to get defining business goals or success markers for the project [a nice overview of how to plan a workshop can be found here].
Gather all the research you can find or do you own! Ask questions such as what are competitors doing? What are they doing well, and what are they doing wrong? What is out there for users at the moment? Are they happy with the type of experience they are currently getting?
What does an experience principle look like?
With the findings of the workshop and research, you will be able to start to define your principles and see them come to life.
The most important aspect of experience principles is that they are short, sweet and to the point. A person does not have to read an essay to understand what the core experience should be.
Who ever is involved in the design process should know these principles by heart, guiding any design decisions that are being made.
For example Google’s calendar experience principles look like this:
(Screenshot from Google Calendar - 21st April 2014)
- Fast, visually appealing and joyous to use.
- Drop dead simple to get information into the calendar.
- More than boxes on a screen (reminder, invitations, etc).
- Easy to share so you can use your whole life in once place.
Once the design is complete, and its being used by the user, it does not mean that these principles should be forgotten about. They should always be referred to throughout the product or services’ life span, and be updated as the design evolves with its users, learning and adjusting.
What experience principles can do for design thinking & business in the future!
One note I make in any talk I give is entrepreneurial thinking. I truly believe that having these principles grafted not only help develop and maintain a good business plan and structure, but open up and discover new possible opportunities that might not have been thought of before.
Alongside entrepreneurial thinking, I pair it with innovation. Yes I know ‘innovation’ is an obvious term and has been thrown around so much that the value of the word does not inspire as it used to. I think innovation has to start to be viewed differently. Using experience principles can help guide the innovation journey of an overall decided concept. It helps explore those small bits of detail that on any other day may have been overlooked because there was no torch to shine the light on it.
Designing for the future with experience principles
Using experience principles are such powerful influencers, you are laying the groundwork of what the future should, and potentially will be like. They are the overview of strategic thinking and planning, they are the guidance of the creative direction, and most importantly they are the overview and guidance of what the intended experience should be.