The digital experience is a shorthand way of saying that we want to create a moment in time and space in which a person, through the power of an Internet connection, experiences something unique. That "something" might be informative, fun, moving or challenging. Its purpose may be to help someone do their job better or to entice consumers to buy something.
No matter what the experience, the digital experience begins and ends with that person we call “the customer.”
What Will the Customer Do?
This means the digital experience starts with customer-centric design. Customer-centric design is a digital design philosophy that places a customer at the center of the creation process. It isn't about easy navigation or enticing visuals, although that helps. Instead, it’s about getting into a customer’s head and thinking how the world looks from their perspective. Understanding the customer characteristics — especially their emotional states — starts off the design process. Deciphering what the customer might do within a digital experience is the payoff.
Focusing on what someone might want to do applies to any design. A highway should be designed with how drivers drive in mind and a garden with contemplation or serenity. The digital experience, however, must put all of the complexity of a human being front and center. It has to speak to all of the customer’s desires and senses all at once. For a digital experience to succeed, it needs to be functional and beautiful, natural to use yet encompassing the totality of the expected experience. Only customer-centric design will incorporate all of those elements.
Seeing Through Customers' Eyes
Major software companies have recognized this need and embraced it. IBM’s Design Thinking looks at customers through the eyes of anthropology and psychology. Ultimately it tries to have developers, designers and marketing people think as if they were the customer. It helps create a digital experience that anticipates what a customer may do and how they would do it. This is in sharp contrast to other design languages such as Google’s Material Design. That is primarily a visual language which provides guidelines for developing beautiful and functional navigation but is not about the total experience. In fact, visual languages exist side-by-side with customer-centric design. Visual languages help to realize a digital experience based on the customer-centric design.
The success or failure of a digital experience begins with the customer. The process of creating such an experience begins with customer-centric design. Everything else is implementation details. Without the right design, the implementation doesn’t matter and the digital experience will fail.