Joe Johnston (merhl.com), Christian Saylor (Mighty), Grant Carmichael (knoware) and I have been having some great conversations around the concept of Experience Design (XD) lately. Late last year, pretty much during the MAX 2007 conference in Chicago, I latched on to the XD conversation in full force. I hadn't realized it, or labeled it as such, but XD is what I've been doing for a couple of years now... nice to actually have a name for it - I've gotten sick of saying "oh, I do web stuff" when someone asks what I do :) The idea of interaction design or web architect always flies over the non-web person's noodle.
One of the struggles I've been having in wrapping my arms around the discipline, is where does it end? In print, once the piece comes off the press, your done. But in XD, the conversations continue to get more and more lofty. Initially, XD is focused on the user's interaction with the site/application/widget/etc. But this easily begins to transcend this easy to define 'web physical' realm into the oh-so-fuzzy realm of brand, consumer relationships, trust.
The building blocks of XD for the web - in my opinion - are founded on the physical and emotional touchpoints a person has with a web solution. This can manifest itself in the things that a normal rich internet development/design process would undertake:
- clearly articulated objectives
- measurable success criteria
- simplicity and focus
- content is king
- provide personalization
- minimize the chrome
- just enough is more
- respond to actions
- motion has meaning
- preserve context
- design with consistency
But lately, I've been struggling on where to put the cap on the conversation. A great blog I follow at Adaptive Path pointed out how experience design is not about brand. In my reflection though, brand is the culmination of experience design. Brand, from the perspective of an organization is inside-out - where the organization is attempting to shape public perception based on it's messaging and externally facing tools. Brand, from the perspective of a consumer is outside-in - where my perception of what a company represents and how it engages its customers is based on the experience you've had with an organizations products and services. These 2 perspectives do not necessarily end at the same point - a cohesive brand - but they do end at the same general point - brand.
This is where I'm stuck. I'm not sure how to tie the loose ends together or if they should be tied at all. The conversation of experience design can be capped at the physical elements of the experience - graphic design, motion design, interface design, etc. Or, it can elevate to the level of the entirety of a brand.
The fact that I bought Apple stock at $19 (and sold it at $50 before the split... DAMMIT!) points to the value I held in Apple back in the day - my 'experience' with Apple products and services formed a personal brand experience with me that was valuable and made me purchase the stock. That experience was rooted all the way down to the icons and sounds in the OS and the little smiley face on start-up. Did the designers at Apple consider my perception and acceptance of this experience at this low level so many years ago? Was it a conscious effort to engage me to that degree or was it just creating something cool for coolness sake?
So my question is, where does an experience designer start and stop?