Experience design is getting more and more important in recent years as companies are constantly looking for cutting-edge innovation to stay relevant and competitive in the market (Pullman and Gross, 2004). Experience is an essential part of a product or service, and a well- designed experience will be more likely to develop a customer’s loyalty to the product or service (Davenport and Beck, 2005; Pine and Gilmore, 1999). The bene t of good user experience design is that it can also have an impact on the nancial aspect of organisations in growing pro table products (Reichheld, 2003). This paper will exlpore and critically analyse the core of experience design and review the design process based on the author’s design practice. Furthermore, it will also discuss the ethical issues found in experience design.
What is Experience Design?
According to Hirschman and Holbrook (1982), an experience is an interpretation of a situation by a person which includes both emotional and personal aspect. The interpretation is based on the person’s background, mood, state and many more complex factors (Gardner, 1985; Eysenck and Zuckerman, 1978). While Gupta and Vajic (1999) said that people experience something when they have an interaction with a context in a service. On top of that, Hassenzahl and Tractinsky (2006) argued that designing experience for a user not be only to create an emotional interaction between a product or service and the user that can associate with a user on a personal level but also to satisfy the user needs. However, Kujala et al. (2011) stated that there is no precise definition of experience design as it has multidimensional concepts.
To design an experience, designers must look at problems in a holistic way considering the scale and complexity while designing for a need rather than solving known problems (Grefé, 2011). A good experience can be found in a situation where emotional connections are built between the user and the experience (Arnould and Price, 1993). Moreover, for an experience to achieve that, it has to influence emotions while maintaining a balance between usability and attractiveness (Kujala et al., 2011). Similarly, Getto et al. (2013) also said that while usability is crucial in designing an experience, the product or service also has to put demand into consideration. The product or service has to be used upon launching to ensure that it is a successful experience. This would make customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility and pleasure of the interaction with a service or product as the goal of user experience design.
According to Grefé (2011), these are the essential foundations that need to be considered when designing an experience:
- Understanding of the issues concerning various contexts for design.
- Understanding sustainable system, practices, products and strategies.
- Ability to solve complex problems by identifying the challenge, research, analysis, ideation, prototyping, user testing and iteration.
- Ability to craft solutions that works in a global environment and is diverse and sustainable.
- Understanding and ability to employ tools and technology.
- Ability to manage projects, collaborate with multidisciplinary teams and be flexible and iterative in working.
- Understanding of ethics in practice.
Designing an experience is always associated with a user-centered approach as they both have human needs as the core of the design process (Bacha, 2017; Veryzer and Borja de Mozota, 2005). Therefore, experience design has always to employ a human-centered design in the process, putting human needs as the foundation and the reason why a solution is crafted. Besides, Andrews et al. (2012) argued that users have to be involved early in the design process to ensure that they influence the outcome. By doing this, it prevents a loss for organisations in designing a product or service that has no value and serves no needs.
According to Giacomin (2014), a user-centered approach is always characterised by the diversity in team, clear and deep understanding of the users and their environment, system thinking that considers the whole experience of the design and involvement of the users in an iterative process and development. This is not an approach that can be pre-determined and anticipated. Hence it requires designers to be flexible in adapting to situations based on the ever-changing behaviours of users. Moreover, on top of all of it, a user-centered approach requires empathy through design research, analysis and synthesis to identify an unbias problems that users have (Bill Nicholl, 2017) which could be obtained by answering the questions in The Human-Centered Design Pyramid (Giacomin, 2014).
The double Diamond process is often used as a foundation of a user-centered design process as it allows designers to think divergently and convergently in refining ideas and solutions through Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver stage (Design Council, 2007). As a starting point, the Discover stage encourages designers to do the design research, looking for the right problems. The Define stage is where designers can start identifying the challenge in users, and craft the solutions for it in the Develop stage. Finally, in the Deliver stage, designers will then focus on refining the solution for users.
Similar to the four stages in the Double Diamond process, the user-centered approach in website development can be applied to experience design and has four stages that occur in a cycle process: Plan, Analyse,
Design and Testing (Designorate, n.d.). This process starts with planning the project structure followed by forming the right multidisciplinary team. Once the foundation is established, the team go through an in-depth analysis of the project by doing design research to understand the user and identifying the elements they need to validate. Only after having all this information then the team can design a product or service for the user. Finally, the product or service that is presented needs to be tested by the user. This is where the team observe user’s behaviour to get data which then used to iterate the product or service for further improvement. However, the process does not stop at the testing stage as it is a repetitive cycle. Because going through the cycle will ensure a product or service to grow and develop.
Experience Design in Practice
As discussed above, to achieve a good experience design, designers must be able to craft a message through experience that allows the user to interact with the product or service in personal and emotional level while fulfilling user needs (Grefé, 2011; Gupta and Vajic, 1999). According to McLellan (2000), the goal of experience design is to craft a functional, engaging, compelling and memorable experience while having a clear purpose of what it wants to serve. Likewise, Pine and Gilmore (1998) explained the goal as the “sweet spot” where user participates in an immersive and absorptive connection, which can be reached by having a balance of activeness and passiveness in the interaction between a user and a product or service.
The project was a part of Experience Design module in Hyper Island, where the brief was given by a client chosen by the team of five people. The client chosen by the team was ShinDigger, a Manchester-based beer brewery. And the brief presented by the client was: How can ShinDigger expand their brand experience. ShinDigger manage the business by using the shadow brewing method, which means brewing without actually own a brewery. They develop their recipes and pilot kit, which is then used to brew the beers in another four partner breweries’ spare capacity within Manchester. ShinDigger specialise in craft beer and organising event party called ‘ShinDigger Sessions’ every few months.
Having such a broad brief and without a clear goal by the client, the team started the project by narrowing down the brief into a more specific context. The team did secondary research on ShinDigger and their customers to gain a quick understanding of the brand from both perspectives. When sufficient information was gathered, the team discussed some of the dominant elements in the brand which were escapism, authenticity, and relativity to the people of Manchester. Then the team established a new direction of looking at the brief: How might we create a festival feeling without a festival.
Tools & Techniques
The Kanban project management method is first invented by Toyota as their production system to control inventory levels, production and supply of components and materials (Graves et al., 1995; Lage Junior and Godinho Filho, 2010). The application of Kanban project management includes the Kanban Board, which is a framework that maps out the workflow in the project by having a physical board divided into three columns: To Do, Doing and Done (LeanKit, n.d.). This is to categorise the different tasks in the project based on the status, often being updated daily by having a daily stand up before starting the project on the day.
Reflection: Kanban Board
As a part of the project kick off, the team set up their modified Kanban Board. The Kanban Board was applied to the working day’s calendar, so that every day have its own To Do, Doing and Done list. While ideally, the Kanban Board has to be updated every day during the daily stand up in the morning, often the team updated the Kanban board at the end of the day, because the team often could not check in at the same time in the morning. However, having a clear plan for the day before coming into work has helped the team to speed up the working process and increase the level of efficiency as compared to team members’ previous experience working with the usual daily stand up routine.
2. User Interview
According to Lund and Tschirgi (1991), end-user satisfaction determines the quality of a product or service. Besides, with a human-centered approach as the foundation of the process, thorough research was required. Interviews are the essential research method to gain an in-depth understanding of the user and their needs (Hartling et al., 2017). Interviews allow the team to be able to empathize with their users, understand their value and go through the experience from their perspective (Mortensen, 2018). User interview ideally consists of specific questions about the product or service and open-ended questions about matters of the user experience in interacting with the product or service. However, conducting interviews can be more challenging than it seems. It is not just a matter of asking questions, as Mortensen (2018) said that it requires the ability to read the situation and context of the questions asked.
Reflection: User Interview
The team conducted the first round of user interview as soon as the project started by asking the beer consumers in general to understand the beer consumption habit within Manchester. The interview guide started with a list of open-ended questions about general beer consumption, lifestyle and awareness about ShinDigger beers at the end. The team synthesised the interviews by downloading each of them every time it is done, by categorising the data as ‘What does the customer do’, ‘Insights gained from the customers’ and ‘Opportunities found’. Then, the downloaded information is written down in post its and placed on a big board. It is important to keep the download board visible in the working space to ensure that every decision made is referred to the information from users.
The insights and opportunities discovered in the first round of user interview enabled the team to generate ideas. Once the team defined a few ideas, they conducted the second round of interview with a more specific user to validate assumptions in the ideas. The second round of interviews is targeted to young professionals in the creative industry within Manchester about the culture and team building workshop in their workplace. Having done the two rounds of user interview, the team encountered situations where the interview guides prepared might not be suitable for everybody. Often, the answers given require the team to ask follow-up questions which can lead to discovering unseen insights. Also, every user will have a different personal bias, and this is the factor that is uncontrollable. Therefore, optimal results can only be achieved when interviews are conducted with an understanding of asking the right questions in the right sequence, and more importantly translating the information correctly.
3. Workshop With Client
A user-centered approach has let the team put user needs as the priority. Nevertheless, co-creation between product or service provider and the users is crucial as it is a way to enable the provider to identify failures in the market early in the process and way to address them (Ehlen et al., 2017; Forbes.com, 2014). According to Woodall, Lee and Steward (2012), co-creation happens when social capital is merged with a gathering of new knowledge to craft new system and solutions in product or service. Simillarly, Ehlen et al. (2017) defined co-creation as a collaborative creative process in generating and developing innovative products, processes and services.
Reflection: Workshop With Client
With a brief knowledge of ShinDigger customers, the team acted as a bridge between the service provider and users, organised a workshop with ShinDigger as a part of co-creation. The purpose of the workshop is to gain in-depth knowledge of the organisation and look for opportunities for improvement. The team and ShinDigger defined the brand and their users through six frameworks in the workshop:
1.Brand identity analysis: Defining the image of ShinDigger from their perspective by asking them to imagine themselves as a character that has similar characters and personalities, as well as understanding the events behind their successes and failures.
2.Vision, mission and core values statement: It is important to have a shared and aligned vision and mission of ShinDigger. Moreover, understand the drives behind it to set the brand’s tone of voice.
3.Challenges and opportunities: Identifying the current challenges and opportunities for ShinDigger to understand the capacity to grow.
4.User persona: Knowing the demographics, characteristics and values of the users that ShinDigger are reaching by creating a figure that represents the ideal target (Cooper, 1999). Although the persona started with stereotypes, having a human figure would be a factor that reminds designers that they design for people. Nevertheless, the figure in the persona has to be refined and validated through research and interaction with actual users.
5.Current and future statement: Imagining ShinDigger’s current and future position by using social media as the medium to portray the image of the brand.
6.Billion pounds challenge: Brainstorming the business plan of ShinDigger by going through a creative process with an unlimited budget to establish the organisation.
4. Concept Sprint
According to (Gryskiewicz et al., 2018), one of the core in the agile way of working is a concept sprint. Despite the similarities with design sprint, this methodology is focused on concepts over ideas of the business function. It improves the innovation process of the business by analysing the impact on business which revolves around the users. Concept sprint consists of five different phases which will go through the process of understanding the foundation of a product or service provider for generating tangible ideas and rapid prototyping. The five phases of concept sprint are:
- Understand: Setting the direction of the sprint by discovering about the priorities in the project, understanding the right users and empathise with their experiences and needs. This phase is a critical part in defining the success to be achieved.
- Conceptualize: Developing concept based on identified user problems by having series of brainstorming involving all team members.
- Align: Refining the developed concept while finding the assumptions that need to be validated and estimating a tangible impact on the business.
- Build: Creating a low fidelity rapid prototype of the solution for usability testing.
- Validate: Testing the prototype created to validate carefully chosen assumptions and use the information gathered to iterate.
Reflection: Concept Sprint
Using concept sprint as the foundation, the team did the process in three days while adjusted it according to the project. There were five stages in the process:
- Understand: The team identified key stakeholders in the project and looked for their problems and needs based on the information gathered from the interviews.
- Conceptualize: By knowing the problems of the key stakeholders, the team conceptualize a solution for each problem.
- Align: When solutions were presented, the team clustered similar concepts together decided on five concepts and arranged them according to priorities by dot voting.
- Build: According to the priorities, the team defined the minimum viable product for the five solutions by asking themselves what to validate, test, learn, understand and measure the solutions.
- Validate: Finally, with the defined minimum viable product for the solutions, the team had a clearer vision and were able to build the prototype for the five solutions to be tested.
Building prototype is the most efficient way for designers to bring their ideas and concepts into life and tangible product or service (Saffer, 2010; Warfel, 2009). A prototype is a repetitive stage where mistakes and failures are identified early in the process which is then addressed to improve the quality of a product or service (Wildman and Durant, 2013). Moreover, prototype reduces cost in product or service changes as it is not the outcome. To achieve optimal results, prototyping has to be done repetitively by going through testing, feedback, and iteration starting from low fidelity to high fidelity (Yang, 2005).
A prototype is not limited to any format and can be anything depending on the context, and it is often categorised by the level of fidelity into low and high (Kendall, 2018). Low fidelity prototype is the fastest way of bringing ideas to life early in the process. Mostly done in a raw design with minimum elements on papers, because the objective is to minimize output and maximize outcome (Patton, 2014). High fidelity prototype is a refined prototype that is close to the outcome. This is a great way of showing a product to the users that feels and looks like the actual product that they are going to get. However, a prototype with this level of fidelity usually came from improvement from a low fidelity prototype. Therefore, it is important for designers to understand which prototype to be built according to the stages of the design process they are in.
The team started the first stage of prototyping as a part of the Concept Sprint. Low fidelity prototypes were built on paper for the five concepts generated in the Concept Sprint. Each of the concepts was captured in an idea napkin, a piece of paper with a short description, target audience, problems solved and sketches of the ideas. Then the team did quick testing by showing the idea napkins to the users as a conversation starter in interviews. The goal was to observe users behaviours and reactions towards the ideas and not too caught up with details in the ideas (Lim, Stolterman and Tenenberg, 2008).
After a few rounds of testing the five ideas through idea napkins and iterating, the team focused on three ideas that span within five years for ShinDigger, which is built into a mix of refined low fidelity and high prototype:
- ShinDigger Brewing Workshop: Activities and workshops such as building startups, team bonding, fun with friends and families and many more done remotely while having the opportunity to let users craft their beer digitally through an app. The app prototype was built in InVision to show the user experience and flow of the service. Click here to view the prototype.
- ShinDigger Craft Your Beer Competition: A platform for people to bring the beer they crafted into the competition through the ShinDigger Brewing Workshop app. The competition is organised at ShinDigger sessions, where attendees can vote by buying their favourite beer. Voting results get updated in real time throughout the session on a screen at the bar. The team designed a set with cardboards and papers to portray the bar in the session and voting results on a screen. With the mixture low and high fidelity, the team presented the prototype in roleplay to show the journey.
- ShinDigger Accelerator: A co-working space dedicated to helping startup breweries grow their business through industry expertise, hands-on mentorship to operate and expand their business. The team built a mockup of the co-working space from cardboards and papers as a prototype to show the different functions of the space.
While building a prototype is crucial, testing it is also equally important in a user-centered design process as designers are not the users (Kendall, 2018). Despite the prototype built for the different concepts, the team struggled to find the perfect solution as the prototypes were not tested on users due to lack of time. Also, without feedbacks from the users, the outcome did not have a clear value and purpose.
Ethics can be a challenging factor, as they are defined by the values, morals and beliefs of every individual (McDonough, 2013). It is essential to consider ethics in a user-centered design to achieve an inclusive and sustainable design solution. The team, which consists of five digital experience design students, worked in collaboration with a team of five digital management students. The team had to conduct research interviews in a safe environment to make the users feel comfortable and make sure that information gathered is used only to develop solutions for them and not to exploit them (Saffer, 2010). While the research information was shared within both teams, the process of doing the research up to ideation was done separately in the respective team before then joined together to develop ideas. However, both teams struggled to align the key insights and ideas because of the different background and perspective of the business. This indicated that the collaboration has to be established earlier in the process to shaped shared values and purpose for the project. Having beer as the core products of ShinDigger, the team had to consider the level of alcohol consumption and non-alcoholic lifestyle in the design process. The design was concentrated on the brand experience rather than beer. However, realistically, the team had to find a balance between offering brand experience and selling ShinDigger beers at the same time to sustain the business.
This paper presented an experience design process based on a user-centered approach by using a combination of tools and techniques. There is no perfect formula for the process, tools and techniques for every project. Therefore, designers have to be able to understand the context of the project and know the suitable process, tools and techniques. Nonetheless, more importantly, designing experiences have to include the users early in the design process through feedbacks and iteration to address their problems. Moreover, the users have to be placed before finding the balance between technology and business.
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