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Crafting Your Brand UX
Crafting Your Brand UX
A well crafted UX design can be the turning point for driving business performance and fighting brand commoditization.
It was a bright morning at the office, the air was crisp and strangely clean after days of heavy rain. Everything was ready for the big presentation, weeks of late nights and coffees, brainstorms and reviews, high moral peaks and frustrations brought the entire team to that make-it-or-break-it moment. She was going to love it.
The CEO entered the quiet meeting room, her stained mug always in her hand, she rapidly took her seat and hinted a cold smile to the small crowd of executives, after an endless pause she cleared her voice.
“I’ve seen the deck last night and it’s not gonna work. Just take this competitors’ site and make ours like it”.
When designing a new digital platform we encounter a large number of uncertainties, we have different teams trying to bring their own vision and objectives and we often feel like we have to compromise on certain features. There is a false dichotomy that permeates the industry: branding and UX objectives are in opposition.
Where branding is often associated with the emotional and the conceptual aspects of the platform, UX is tasked to bring results through conversion oriented interfaces and rational choices.
The two approaches can not only co-live, but can also even enhance each other in a digital product and determine the success of your platform against your competitors.
What is UX about
Every time we design a digital platform we include a certain degree of UX thinking in our process, some platforms are more sophisticated than others, but a well crafted UX has to take into consideration at least three key aspects: the business, the brand and the user.
The business objectives are to bring the conversion actions that fuel the sales.
The brand objectives are to channel the unique image and promise of a company.
The user objectives are to satisfy a stated or latent need within a given usage context.
When we think about UX we often focus on the deliverables that we obtain from an agency: wireframes, research reports, prototypes, but we often forget that a UX approach is a system that is applied to any digital touch point and its consistency is the turning point of bringing branding and conversion objectives work together.
Why UX Matters to Brands
Reaching a new digital touch point is not considered an insurmountable challenge anymore in terms of investment and development efforts. Four main reasons determine why a UX approach matters to brands more than ever.
Digital products are becoming more sophisticated: from digital marketing to digital product/service design, every brand is a de-facto tech company.
The paradigm evolved from touch point expansion to touch point optimization: conversion and abandonment avoidance are key factor in our platform’s success.
Touch points and technology are highly commoditized: the differentiation of our customers’ digital experience will make our brand stand against the competition.
We act in a platform environment where brands are at risk of being commoditized: we need to avoid being just another search result.
In our experience in designing digital platforms from luxury to medical-tech brands we encountered several challenges that reveal themselves to be critical for the success of the project.
The first challenge is self-centricity, designing platforms based purely on the brand perspective with no regard for user needs and overall usability.
For example when you focus on the product features so much that you fill the website with large beautiful images, sacrificing room for important navigation elements.
Another challenge is the “copy/paste” approach, taking something that worked for a competitor or foreign market and expecting it to work for your brand in China.
A third challenge is the risk of overloading the digital product with over-engineered features, thinking that cramming the home page with functionalities will help satisfying the user needs.
A last challenge we encountered is committing the mistake of having a funnel vision for a specific touch point or flow, without taking into consideration the overall customer journey. For example when you spend budget and resources optimizing a checkout flow while users can’t find a compelling reason to download your app in first place.
What We Learned
Challenges have been overcame, obstacles have been circumvented and, surely, lessons have been learned.
Redesigning a checkout flow we realized that a conversational approach was not only the favorite in a usability test, but it brought higher conversion rates to the platform, revealing that dogmas can be broken.
We learned that UX isn’t an exact science and that just because Tmall is successful we don’t need to mimic its design in our solution.
We realized that UX is about the brand and apparently small details like micro-interactions and copywriting solutions are often the elements that reflect your unique brand identity.
Another valuable piece of knowledge that we acquired is that UX is often about more than UX. Your e-commerce site might not be converting because it’s competing with your Tmall store.
Tips That You Can Apply Right Now
We selected some actionable insights that you can apply right now to your digital.
1. Identify the most critical interactions and optimize as much as you can
What are the single most critical interactions in your brand experience? Finding a store? Signing up for CRM? Making a first purchase? Commenting on a product? Find these and optimize as much as you can.
For example: drive to store is the most critical factor for our brand experience so our main CTAs will lead towards that goal.
2. Create a unified UX brand voice
As digital touch points become more fragmented there needs to be a unified UX language across them.
For example: unify the iconography system and CTA copy across Wechat store and official account, brand-owned e-commerce and Tmall.
3. Keep experimenting in an agile way
Establish and test assumptions often. Don’t be afraid if it’s not perfect.
For example: using low-resolution prototypes to test user acceptance of a new conversational interface based checkout flow.
4. Don’t react, plan
Establish milestones for testing and product roadmap adjustment throughout the year to stay ahead of user needs.
For example: plan quarterly usability testing sessions to adjust feature backlog and plan future releases.
Your UX Status
Below you can find a quick framework that you can use as a tool to assess your current UX status and plan your UX strategy for the future.
The framework addresses the UX situation in terms of strategy, people and tools, assigning for each of them a level of sophistication.