It's All About The Experience

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We often forget that it’s all about the experience. So, here’s one for the user experience team.

You can be as strategic, creative and smart as you want, but if the experience doesn’t live and breathe, everything else falls flat. Desperately flat. In a Marketing Charts article, Agencies: Clients Still Have Significant Digital Weaknesses, what do you think was the number one ranked gap for digital marketers? User experience. We live in a very different digital universe than we did a few years ago. As content gets smaller, faster and adapted for people who are, literally, consuming and creating it on the go, if the experience doesn’t remove almost all of the friction, it becomes dead in the water. Fast.

The Instagram world is upon us.

I was watching Scott Galloway (from L2 and the professor of marketing at Stern) talk about the winners and losers in digital today at the DLD NYC event (via online stream), and he is overly bullish on Instagram as being the big winner in social media. In his presentation, he states that in the next 12-24 months, Instagram will be the most powerful social media channel. In fact, he slyly added – at the end of his point – that it may very well already be that powerful. It turns out that Facebook may be spending a lot of its money on acquisitions with the sole purpose of defending their position in social media. What makes Instagram so great? Again, Galloway believes that the real digital winners of today and tomorrow need to be born of mobile and mostly visual. That human beings just do better with pictures over text, and mobile instead of fixed. While that may not provide any semblance of breakthrough thinking, take a quick moment to think about how great a user experience has to be for it to properly deliver on that promise.

It’s hard. Much harder than you think.

A visual experience that works in the mobile landscape – that a user can quickly (and seamlessly) navigate successfully – is no easy feat. It’s not like this is the type of training that we have had for decades. The kind of training that is taught within the university and college systems of the world. We have many people that are geniuses at this type of development, but they are – in the grand scheme of things – few and far between. If any of the bigger players (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc…) get a whiff that a certain start-up team has those types of chops, they usually get gobbled up and acquired long before any of the average folks realize it was a squeeze for either talent, a defensive move… or both. It happens more than most people care to admit.

Training for the future.

Sure, we are continually searching for the next generation of coders to come out of schools and help us architect our digital landscapes, but let’s not forget about the user experience people. From my vantage point, this is a very developed space that is still in a nascent phase simply because the playing field keeps evolving. From keyboards and screens to touchable mobile screens, to wearables to smart televisions to connected appliances to… All of these connected things will need a connected user experience. When you put that fork to your pie hole at night, don’t take for granted the massive amounts of usability and user experience evolution that brought the simple fork to where it is today. User experience (especially in the digital landscape) is a very complex field of practice. And, ultimately, you can have all of the big data, likes on Facebook and paid traffic to your website that you want, if the user experience is anything less than pristine, all of your conversion rates and true value starts faltering and failing at a terrible pace. User experience is rarely made up in an organization with bulked up creative services coupled with the technology team. It’s a field unto itself, and it continues to become a much more critical part of digital’s backbone. It’s easy to write these words. It’s hard to live it. It’s harder to have this become a major piece of the digital marketing puzzle, in a world where most brands know they need it, but don’t know how to hire for it or have the experience gaps that they have (as defined in the Marketing Charts article above). What’s fascinating is this: great digital marketing is no different than other marketing. It is (and always will be) about the experience. The challenge is that user experience is still a black box for most organizations.

That has to change. That’s going to change.