Incremental Innovations: UX Design to Delight & Transform

I recently brought home a new Surface Pro 4. Opening the package was like unwrapping a gift – each component thoughtfully and elegantly designed, heightening my anticipation. So much so that when I first booted up and it winky smiled at me, I shot a big old smile right back at it! Welcome home, my friend!

Can’t say that was my experience when I bought a new electronic thermometer. The hard plastic clam shell packaging was impossible to penetrate without something serrated, creating criminally sharp edges with the potential of escalating our low-grade fever situation to an emergency room visit! There’s a special term for the emotion that this type of packaging inspires. Not to mention stats are actually tracked on the number of injuries resulting from this user experience.

User experience, UX, is both a make-or-break opportunity for a great first impression and a powerful means for developing a long-term relationship with your target audience. If you think about UX only in terms of first date first impressions, you’re missing its true potential.

What is the user experience of your education programs? Do you have an education UX plan?

So far in the Incremental Innovations series we’ve talked about how to establish your content priorities and identify your target audiences. Now that you know what and who, it’s time to move beyond thinking about your education programs as transactional (first date first impressions) and design an experience that inspires member commitment.

Experiences that delight and transform.

Now it’s true that UX has developed a connotation of referring only to digital interactions – but it’s actually much broader than that. The Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, credited with coining the term, offers our operating definition: “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Yes, how members interact with your website. But also how they interact with your publications, membership invitations, membership renewal emails, customer service reps, committee meetings, etc. Critically important as well — your conferences, webinars, eLearning, mLearning — all learning experiences you offer.

Does your education UX delight audiences? Are your learners transformed by your learning experiences?

Like the difference between unwrapping a Surface Pro 4 and wrap raging my way to free a thermometer from it’s clam shell prison, your UX will fall along a spectrum of experiences from supreme happiness to disgust. And your learners will remember how that experience made them feel about you.

So how can you ensure a good learner experience?

1. Your experience must be learner centered. Listen to your audiences so you understand what they want and need. Become an expert in how your segments like to interact with your organization and education products. Use your audience profiles to design experiences directed at their delight and transformation. You will woo them into a long term relationship with your organization because the experience will demonstrate you know them, you really know them.

2. Your experience must stem from clearly articulated UX goals. What experience are you intending to create? Understand the purpose of the experience you are designing so that you can aim for that target and measure how close your mark landed. Your UX goals need to be precise. Offering every bell and all available whistles creates a cacophony of noise that makes learners scatter. It’s confusing. It’s like throwing spaghetti at a wall hoping a few strands stick. It’s like stocking every jam known to man on your shelves, but then your customer leaves empty handed because there are too many jams to choose from. Clearly articulated and measurable goals lead to greater results that can be measured and improved upon.

3. Your experience must utilize the native strengths of the delivery channel. Interaction with your target audience is inherently different in live, online, print and mobile learning contexts. Learners bring an armload of differing expectations to each of these contexts. And each of these channels offers its own unique mix of native features that you can harness within your design to achieve your objectives. Design with the channel of delivery in mind.

4. Your experience must be tested in prototype. Validate the experience you think your learners want by presenting a prototype to your target audiences and gauging their responses. This is an important formative evaluation for our designs so we can make course corrections before fully investing in producing the new learning experience. Based upon the results of your prototype feedback, you’ll know precisely how to market your new experience.

5. Your experience must be evaluated, analyzing that your objectives have been met while identifying opportunities to improve the experience. Did the experience resonate with your target audiences? Did it delight and transform? Also evaluate whether learners “used” your experience as you intended. How did they bend it to better fit their needs? Were there any unintended consequences to consider?

Apply these five steps to swing your learner’s experience more toward unwrapping a gift vs. an emergency room visit.


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