Rich Pasqua, Vice President of Creative and User Experience at NorthPoint Digital, wrote an insightful guest blog post for our User Experience and Design theme that we are wrapping up next week. Rich discusses the importance of collaboration from technology and design groups and how it can make all the difference in digital product design.
As Vice President of Creative and User Experience for NorthPoint Digital, Richard Pasqua focuses on simple, elegant experiences that enhance brands while delivering powerful user experiences. He has led design efforts for clients ranging from American Express, HP, SAP, Bloomberg, Four Seasons, McKinsey, and University of the Arts.
Technology and User Experience Design both play huge roles in developing online and offline applications and products; you can’t have one without the other. Further, technology seems to be advancing at the speed of light, and consumers are presented with increasing volumes of data every second. Now is the time to amplify your efforts on both the Technology and User Experience fronts. The challenge is that some people tend to take a user-centric view of digital experiences, while others consider only the technology. Getting the balance right is the tricky part. By looking at what technology is trying to achieve and who it is intended for, we can put in place efficient processes to improve the digital user experience.
Various technologies act as tools to advance our understanding of and to solve fundamental problems related to specific social and economic issues – mainly, to make users’ lives easier and/or to share information as quickly as humanly possible. In most cases, software designers/engineers are developing software structures that solve broader communications and e-commerce challenges, allowing modules or components to be plugged in and tweaked over time. The platform thus remains open and scalable as new challenges and needs arise.
In many cases, software engineers are tasked with solving a very direct problem: how to make software that other developers and content owners can use to help solve their clients’ problems and not their clients’ customers’ problems. At this juncture, some technology companies tread into murky waters. These companies are able to upgrade a client’s entire system and supply new features and functionality that greatly help the businesses’ bottom lines. They get the technology part right, which is great, but they don’t view the technology in the proper context. These companies further sacrifice the development of the customer journey in an effort to keep costs down and meet increasingly tighter deadlines. When this happens, you often wind up with a digital product that looks like everyone else’s. We have all seen those - they lack the proper brand language, the overall user experience isn’t engaging, and the digital product becomes a “one-size-fits-all” experience.
No one platform is ubiquitous. Given the emergence of mobile devices and tablets, it’s becoming ever more risky to build a one-size-fits–all website. A user’s experience with a brand should transcend different devices and should be tailored to the capabilities of the technology and the context in which it is used.
When we think about how to deliver a truly memorable digital experience, we need to think about who the users are, what they need to get from your product, and marry that with a technology platform that can deliver on those needs. Simultaneously, we need to keep an eye on the overall upkeep and maintenance of the application. The types of content / social and rich media used is important, and so is the level of design detail in the page templates, social components and screens used for displaying your content on (Mobile, Tablet, Web). Many times, decisions on platforms are made well before a UX design team gets into the mix. This is not the end of the world. It just adds a roadblock to the process and presents an extra layer of problem solving to the project.
UX / Design and technology need to co-exist within a well-defined process that all team members and clients agree too. UX teams can help inform the platform decision-making process early on and discuss the pros and cons strategically with the client through the eyes of a potential user. This of course requires a little upfront user research, but it’s all worth it in the end. Creating a process that is inclusive of technologists during the UX process and designers during the development stages is a good way of creating checks and balances throughout the entire implementation and delivery process. This approach of layering in designers’ and technologists’ perspectives during each phase helps avoid potential time consuming and expensive pitfalls that arise during the project, and more importantly, helps free both teams up to creatively problem solve along the way.
In the end, the best digital products are the ones that have buy-in from both designers and technologists. It’s the continual education of team members on both sides that opens up more creative problem solving, new ideas and the ability to deliver on a brand’s / client’s strategic vision more successfully.