At its core, the practice of User Experience Design is tasked with balancing two very different asks.
At one end, we have a brand or business with a specific goal in mind. That may be capturing leads, increasing online transactions or educating an internal audience. On the other end are users who don’t have goals per se, but needs and desires instead. They want to learn about a service. They want to buy a product or maybe register for an event.
Creating digital experiences that deliver on both asks is the challenge.
It requires a delicate balance, because skewing too far toward either can result in a failure for both the business and the user. I like to think of this balance in culinary terms: Think of business goals as nutrition on one end of the food spectrum, and think of user needs as taste or flavor on the other.
If we just set out to deliver nutrition, we could in theory create an efficient, cheap, dry powder that contains all of the essential nutrients required to sustain life. In practice, no one would be willing to consume this powder for long. The only way they would subject themselves to this would be if they had an absolute need. These types of digital experiences exist in the real world. Think of filing for a permit online or paying car registration fees online. These digital experiences are generally not sought after by users but rather endured out of necessity.
On the other end of the spectrum, imagine the most delicious, decadent dessert you have ever tasted. It looks amazing, the flavors are off the charts and you just can’t manage to put your fork down. You know it isn’t good for you. You know the pleasure will be fleeting, but you eat up anyway. These are the types of digital experiences that generally win awards. They go viral.
The problem is, you may end up with sightseeing users who are gleefully clicking around a barbecue grill manufacturer’s microsite that lets you attempt to cook the perfect virtual steak, with sometimes hilariously charred results, but these users live in apartments with no outdoor space to house said grill. They’re just browsing for entertainment and will realize (or not) that they just wasted 20 minutes of their lives with nothing to show for it. These “junk food” experiences tend to be ephemeral and fleeting, losing their effectiveness as soon as the fork hits the now-empty plate. In short: all sizzle, no steak.
Finding the healthy balance between nutritious and delicious.
This balance needs to be struck for an experience to be both captivating for users and effective for business. We see the role of User Experience Design serving as both chef and dietitian, whose job is to truly understand what the goal of a digital experience is and then work closely with our creative, content and technology teams to deliver the delight that engages users and keeps them coming back for more.
A good cook knows that the best recipes are often the simplest.
These are the ones you memorize, internalize and use as the basis for experiments in flavor and texture to fit your mood or the tastes of your guests. Digital experiences are no different, except for their caloric content! Find that balance between nutrition and flavor, and you’ll end up with delighted diners that keep coming back to their favorite restaurant time and time again.
About the Author
As director of Bader Rutter’s Digital Experience group, Dan Herwig oversees and collaborates with a group of Digital Strategists and User Experience practitioners that are focused on creating engaging and compelling digital experiences for our clients. With over 25 years of experience blending strategy,
creativity, his work ranges from huge enterprise-wide brand and web design systems, to intimate tactile experiences and everything in-between.