We’re excited to introduce the newest addition to our happy group of digital pioneers, our new UX Lead – Bob Powell.
Bob comes to Coast Digital with a truly remarkable amount of knowledge, experience and wit (as you’re about to find out!) We caught up with Bob to find out where he’s been, what he knows and how he anticipates the future of user experience in development.
Welcome Bob! How was your first week at Coast Digital and what are your first impressions?
It hasn’t been the kind of first week the more cynical part of me would expect. There was no panic, no ego-politics, no friction between the teams. I don’t want to say it’s been relaxed, because it’s a coincidence of fate, but it’s a very different culture here than any digital agency I’ve worked in before, and very refreshing after working from client side for So long.
My first impressions are that I have never seen so many happy people working in one place. This is a revelation in today’s business world. I design experiences, and whoever created that experience has my admiration!
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
If I do that, you’re gonna need a bigger blog.
Without going into too much detail, I’ve been involved in User Centered Design (UCD) since the 1980s, designing and testing the gameplay of 16-bit games (Amiga and Atari, anyone?) before moving on. to what was then called multimedia, eventually ending up working with the emergence of digital finance just as the web was born.
Since then, I’ve worked in just about every industry imaginable, automotive, education, banking, legal, e-commerce, science, and in public and private sectors, always putting the end user at the heart of decision making. .
What attracted you to digital, and UX in particular?
The attraction to digital was easy, it was fun! It was also a natural evolution from real-world design to digital design. The words in a print book are the same as in an e-book, the information is essentially the same, but digital allows for a lot more interaction and provides a much richer experience – not just when it comes to books , but for all kinds of information . What’s not to like?
UX, too, was a natural extension of what I was doing in the real-world UCD space. The appeal is that it removes opinion from the process and brings you to the heart of emotional design, while finding real solutions to human form problems. When you’re doing it right, when users are happy and the business is happy – both benefiting from the final experiential design – there’s no alike feeling.
How has digital UX changed since you started working in the field?
He has changed a lot. The truth is that when I started it didn’t really exist, we had very structured, even esoteric rules from human-computer interaction (HMI) and human-machine interface (HMI), which were more ergonomic than digital. design, which made it almost impenetrable to all but the most specialized industries and engineering experts. People simply accepted that problems existed and it was up to them to learn ways around them.
Today, UX is an essential aspect of business in every product and service imaginable. The psychological underpinning of the discipline still requires specialized knowledge, but the use of that knowledge and the process of using the combination of qualitative and quantitative data to drive business success is pervasive.
People may not know how we managed to deliver good UX, but they know when they encounter bad UX and these days they won’t accept it.
For our readers, can you help explain the main difference between UX, CX and BX?
Oh, you want me to light this fuse, don’t you? Ok – take a deep breath – think of it like this, UX and CX are about experience design, but on different scales.
UX Design (user experience) experiments with design on a short scale of time. It could be an application or a web design, an adjustment of the communication strategy or the modification of the delivery of a marketing campaign. For the most part, it’s considered a digital specialty, not least because the name was created by Don Norman (the very first UX specialist) when he was working at Apple, so obviously tech-based, but it’s not isn’t, it’s not like humans exist as digital entities, so it can’t just be digital.
Think of UX as a focus on a specific, short-term experience design problem, typically but not exclusively in digital, within a much, much larger experience.
CX Design (customer experience) is a much larger experience. It can be creating a commitment to the brand, creating and maintaining a customer relationship, formulating a complete service concept. For the most part it’s seen as non-digital, stemming from traditional marketing and branding, but it’s not, it’s not like humans stop engaging in real life just because they take a gimmick, so it can’t just be non-digital.
Think of CX as a focus on a long-term experience design problem, usually but not exclusively non-digital.
Then there’s this new term, BX.
Bx (Business Experience) design is when the design experience becomes the focus of a business. It’s not just about a product or service, it’s not just about building a customer relationship to sell things, it’s about how the whole business works and build business success on the experiences they create and nurture.
We’re probably used to digital transformation programs, but they’re usually about optimizing ways of working to ultimately drive better sales. BX is the same, however, it’s more of a complete culture shift, putting the user first so sales happen naturally.
What’s the toughest UX challenge you’ve faced?
Answer this last question without upsetting too many people!
Kidding aside, the biggest challenge with UX is the perception problem it has. UX is still widely seen as something that can be associated with user interface (UI) design, something that can be guessed at to produce boxes and arrows, or wireframes. These perceptions miss the truth to quite a large extent. The analogy I tend to use is that of a car driver:
A car’s user interface is made up of the controls. It is extremely important to do them correctly. After all, if you can’t turn the steering wheel the way you want, no matter how beautiful or expensive the car is, wrapping it around a lamp post isn’t a good experience.
The user experience of driving a car is so much more. It’s the ride quality, the audio systems, the engine performance, it’s the handling, it’s the brand values. There’s a reason the ads show cars zipping through beautiful countryside or gliding effortlessly through traffic rather than just on the dash, the experience of driving a car isn’t just about the controls.
Understanding this kind of emotional design for a UX is hard enough, but getting someone who only thinks of UX as UI (controls) to understand it is a whole other challenge. This perception has improved considerably over the last ten years, but it remains a challenge.
What’s the biggest consideration when taking on a new web project, and how does UX fit into it all?
It’s a cliché but it’s true – when it comes to the web, the competition is just a click away. You may have the best service or product in the world, but if the experience of accessing that offer is poor, you won’t make any sales to your target audience.
UX fits into this by finding out who exactly is in this specific target audience, then identifying their specialized needs, their collective motivations, why do they do what they do, and then turning that into precisely calculated solutions for them. help achieve this.
What’s exciting in UX right now and what does the future look like?
JThe exciting thing in UX, at the moment, is the shift to conversational experience and naturally responsive wearables, things that don’t necessarily need a GUI. Digital assistants, such as Siri or Cortana, have become so familiar that they have practically disappeared into the background, which is to be expected. However, they laid the groundwork for the emergence of more developed AI and IoT (Internet of Things), designed to fit naturally into life. It’s pure experience design, so integrated it’s barely noticeable. Getting it right is an incredibly exciting prospect.
What does the future look like? Better people than me have guessed this and been wrong. How many people in 2015, when asked what the future holds for them five years from now, said, “lots of banana bread recipes and watching Netflix on their leave”? If pushed, I would say BX is a good indicator, as experience as a commodity in itself (rather than a side effect of other processes) becomes more central to trading decision making.
The future? It’s more human than ever.
Find out how Bob and his team use our range of UX Services to reveal advanced audience insights and create meaningful online user journeys. Or, if you’ve seen enough and are ready to start creating a more user-centric digital experience right now, give us a call at 0845 485 1652 and let’s start!