Customer Experience Death By Design

You’ve heard of death by PowerPoint, right? That feeling when the presenter, whether in a conference or company meeting, is reading poorly worded phrases off generic bulleted lists is enough to kill any enthusiasm in the room. The same thing can happen with customer experience.

Death by design sneaks into culture, into presentations and into the customer experience.

The latest *awesome* example of really poor design is from the U.S. military. Following the leak/whistle-blowing of the PRISM surveillance program, the PowerPoint which explained the program quickly made the rounds. And then something really interesting happened. Instead of just criticizing the design, some designers took the initiative and redesigned the key slides. These slides were transformed from ugly, uninformative and illegible to clear, concise and attractive.

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before

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after

This points to many issues with poor design. It’s not just what is nice looking and what’s not, it’s about getting information across.

Customer experience death by design is not something to dismiss.

Helping your customers find what they need is a primary objective for ANY customer experience. In some cases, the customers you are serving are other employees or departments within your organization.

It seems presenters of information, whether it’s a PowerPoint agenda or signs in the airport, don’t ask the questions before launching into design.

Key questions to ask before designing anything:

1. What information am I trying to convey?

So simple, but let’s face it, often overlooked. Conferences are really great at selecting speakers who are interested in selling their services. Attendees don’t typically care. They attend the conference to learn, to hear what’s next, to understand. And it’s SO disappointing when the speaker doesn’t really convey anything except “WE WANT YOUR BUSINESS AND I WILL HARASS YOU IF I GET YOUR CARD.” It’s even worse when the presentation is lacking any personality or visually appealing slides. Throw in a monotone and an illegible spreadsheet (I’ve seen it!) and as an audience member, you regret you won’t ever get those 60 minutes back.Customer Experience Death By Design

2. What is the MOST IMPORTANT piece of information?

Design and communication should be about action. What action would you like someone to take? Financial services companies send out a lot of things that tell us, what, exactly? Overused headers, designed to get attention, scream things in bold like Important Information or We Care and yet readers are trained to gloss right over this. Design, when done well, elevates the entire experience. The important information gets attention because of both what it is and the action being directed. Poor design coupled with poor communication is a recipe in apathy. No matter what is being designed, apathy is not the goal of the experience.

3. What context will the reader/customer see this in?

Context is king and all that, but it’s still not addressed in many parts of the customer experience. Consider mobile. If a mobile user is seeking a train schedule, consider the context of when and how he might be doing this. Don’t create a complex design that means he’ll miss not only the train, but might even walk off the tracks. Context of where, how, and who the user is should be at the forefront of any customer experience design.

Customer experience death by design is avoidable. There are many examples where great design brings the entire experience forward. What are your favorite examples of design? What are your favorite examples of awesomely bad design? My feeling is the NSA PowerPoint example will live in infamy for a very long time.

Photo Credit: Whatsername? via Creative Commons

Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the Chief Customer Experience Investigator™ and founder of 360Connext, a Chicago-based consulting firm specializing in the cornerstones of customer experience: customer engagement, employee engagement and connections like social media. 360Connext serves mid-market companies and larger by helping them evaluate their true customer experience. The evaluations always lead to improvements which then lead to results like increased online conversions or loyalty.

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