The pace of change in the online world is causing organizations to struggle to keep up with their online interactions with their customers. More and more of these interactions happen nowadays via the Interweb. While these digital interfaces serve consumers everywhere, the user experience these consumers have shapes how they view the brands in their lives. These visual interfaces and the user experiences they convey represent the the digital persona of a given brand. This means that the role of a Marketing Executive is more difficult and their influence must reach further into the organization than ever before.
First off, consumer expectations are much higher. Many folks have lost patience with technology… they don’t want to learn, they want to do! To use technology that performs to expectations whether it’s a TiVo, a Mac Book Pro, iPad or TouchPad (whoops no worries about that device any more). This impatience with user experiences has extended well beyond the consumer sphere and into enterprise applications as well.
Why is this happening??? Its because we have made great gains in user experience in the consumer space that individuals have expectations that those experiences be as engaging and intuitive in their work environments and why not? It’s an entirely reasonable expectation. The question you have to ask and answer is: How can I as a marketer connect customers to my brand and by influencing product developments inspire lasting engagement?
Digital Interfaces live on and on
While marketing campaigns can change at a rapid pace, digital interfaces can live for years, sometimes decades, before undergoing major identity changes. SaaS solutions can change much more rapidly but do you want that? If you change an interface too quickly, the user will never master the interface and guess what… they’ll be just as frustrated with a continually evolving interface as one that’s just plain awful to use. Visual interfaces need to express and utilize what I like to call Iconic Implicature – a sense of intuitiveness that occurs just by looking at the graphical representations in that interface as well as timelessness – a consistency that the user can count on so that the digital persona of the brand isn’t constantly changing.
Because both on-premise and Web-based applications have become more complex, we must balance style with usability in interface design. A good interface is a humble servant of functionality, but this means we have less opportunity to show a strong visual identity. Instead, the identity must live in the visual details, and the interactivity and usability become the memorable experience that the end user is seeking. But what about the brand? Well, the brand's identity can still be expressed through the consistency of that interface. Therefore, as Marketing Execs its incumbent upon you to extend your brand guidelines to those things well beyond creation of Direct Marketing or Email Marketing pieces but to the product themselves. As the true digital persona of the brand, these guidelines should guide interface designers to develop a consistent look and feel to your solution that is consistent, reliable and fun!
If your marketing organization is NOT involved in the look and feel of the solution, then get a SEAT AT THE TABLE.
The Marketeers Takeaway
Good design drives users to be more engaged with brands but don’t forget that how a product behaves irrespective of design also influences users to either be engaged or not. If you don’t focus on simplifying the complexities of a given solution and you are totally focused on the design then its just lipstick on a bulldog. If you think about it, a product’s design sets expectations as to the functional capability and usability of a product – if the interface is kludgy and complicated, then folks think the behavior of the product will be kludgy and complicated. If its easy to use then users expect the behavior of the product to be easy as well. To understand where on this ease of use continuum your product should reside means having a thorough understanding of your customer (more on this in another post).
As product marketers, if you were to recommend a completely simplistic and consistent experience you may miss entire segments of your market – that is to have your product speak to many different groups of users – each with unique goals and usage contexts. At the end of the day you will need to implement some sort of Experience strategy, which will enable you to define an interface for multiple market segments and multiple user types, yet still, using a standards-based guidelines approach to developing user experiences.