The Importance of Experience Thinking

The Importance of Experience Thinking

As an advocate of Experience Thinking™, a process that introduces the user as a stakeholder throughout the development of a product or service, I am often engaged in conversation around what exactly Experience Thinking™  is and why it is important that companies adopt an experience-centric approach. As this is a conversation I’ve had several times, I thought I’d share the most frequently asked questions in a logical flow – with my responses. Perhaps this will start the discussion in your own organization or team.

1. What is an experience?

2.What do we mean by Experience Thinking™?

3.Why should companies think about experience when creating their product or service?

4. What are the key aspects that you take into consideration when creating an experience?

5. Can you give me an example of what you mean by having emotion form part of an experience?

6. Why is an experience-centric approach to design so important – and what can it do for companies who adopt this approach?

7. What’s the importance of taking an intentional approach to experience creation?

8. What process do you follow when creating experiences?

9. What do you mean by the total experience lifecycle and why should companies follow this approach?

10. What advice would you give to companies who are looking to create more effective user & customer experiences?

1. What is an Experience?

An experience is a situation that we could encounter on a daily basis. It could be a trip on the subway, bus or to the airport. It could also be something you use like a cell phone or website.

Experiences themselves “live” in a space which could be a place or an environment. They involve users, customers, and/or clients. Whether you’re using hardware, software, mobile apps or a service, these elements become part of your experience.

2. What do we mean by Experience Thinking™?

By taking a certain approach, it’s possible to create experiences so that they provide the most satisfying outcome possible for participants of that experience. The best experiences are created by taking a holistic view of how people react / interact with a set of events in specific points of time. For example, if you’re sitting in a restaurant, you go through a certain set of events in a certain order – in a certain amount of time and with a certain result. Thinking about that experience, from walking into the restaurant to leaving after a good meal, they are all part of that interaction with the restaurant. Designing for all aspects of that interaction is what Experience Thinking™ is all about.

3. Why should companies think about experiences when creating their product or service?

Experience is important because, in the end, it’s what the user/customer/client sees and interacts with. The experience is essentially what you deliver, and what your audience lives through in the end. It’s not always about just technology, brand or vision alone, there are many interconnecting elements.

If the overall experience is not a good one, chances are that your audience will never come back to experience your product or service again and you may lose them to a competitor. Excelling in one aspect of the experience (e.g. deliver expected functionality) does not guarantee an overall positive experience. The end to end experience is made up of many experience points.

4. What are the key aspects that you take into consideration when creating an experience?

There are many aspects related to experience, but some of the key ones are more intangible and include timing, flow, interaction, and emotion.

I talked about the relevance of time, but let’s consider the other aspects. Flow and timing are important, as events occurring during an experience tend to happen in a certain order. Interaction is also key as there is a participatory aspect gained through interaction with a product, service or person.

One interesting aspect relating to experiences is that they are often funneled through the human senses. What we see, hear and feel are important to how we experience something. Emotions also come into play. For example, if you’re watching a movie you’re going to feel something whether it’s happiness or sorrow. You might also feel a certain way while walking into a certain space.

5. Can you give me an example of what you mean by having emotion form part of an experience?

While in London on a business trip, I was looking to rent a car and walked up to one counter expecting the “usual” treatment. What happened next took me by surprise and affected my whole view of the car rental experience. The person across the counter smiled, held out his hand…and saidL “Hi – my name is Matt!

Before any attempts at my business were made, he made an effort to make a human connection and that made a lot of difference to how I viewed the rest of the transaction and the industry in general.

6. Why is a human-centric approach to experience thinking™ so important – and what can it do for companies who adopt this approach?

We believe that remarkable experiences can empower people and in short, make the world a better place. Companies that adopt this approach to experience thinking will create memorable product experiences that are more meaningful to their customers and users.

If your customers feel that you understand them, truly design for them, they will feel valued and this will go a long way towards establishing and maintaining loyalty towards that company or organisation.

7. What’s the importance of taking an intentional approach to experience creation?

Companies that take an intentional experience creation approach to design will de-risk their investments by making sure that all the elements in the mix are known and well-researched with a user and customer view on design. We help our clients by taking the guesswork out of the creation process to ensure they have a clear picture before any ideas reach the solutions funnel.

In today’s economy, expectations are on the rise and our ability to analyse and create the experience from all angles helps increase organizational efficiencies and customer satisfaction with the products and services.

8. What process do you follow when creating experiences?

We take the following approach to end-to-end experience design:

·       Identify each element of the experience to uncover characteristics and the relative importance of each one

·       Follow a repeatable process to understand and create the actual experience

·       Apply appropriate business and user metrics to measure, govern and track performance

It’s interesting in that the strategy we use involves both divergent and convergent thinking. We start by trying to figure out what’s going on, understand the context of the use, product and service. Then come up with a set of elements by applying techniques like personas, user profiles, task analysis and usage scenarios to capture product requirements in a meaningful way. The flow can almost be compared to swimming. You’re moving in and out trying to identify what you’re dealing with, then find ways to improve it. Companies don’t always see the need to do this, but it’s critical that you do both when creating an experience.

9. What do you mean by the end-to-end experience lifecycle and why should companies follow this approach?

The end-to-end experience lifecycle is the journey of a typical product or service experience. It incorporates both an organizational and audience perspective to the experience and examines elements incurred during the process such as awareness, comparison, purchase, set-up, etc.

It’s important to take a lifecycle approach so companies don’t end the experience after the purchase phase. At this point, customers will start to ask the question “what’s my relationship with you?” and feel that it’s important to have their loyalty rewarded. Companies need to continue the conversation after the purchase phase to find out what’s really meaningful to them.

In many cases, companies don’t see things from a customer-centric point of view and can spend a large portion of their budget fixing things that aren’t meaningful to their audience. We like to go in and provide a customer-based perspective to show how different things impact the experience at each phase in the process.

We’ll provide the 3rd party view that takes the guesswork out of a product or web strategy and to give a clear picture of what’s involved before spending money designing the experience.

10. What advice would you give to companies who are looking to create a remarkable user and customer experiences?

I would suggest that they think of the experience as being a red thread. For the customer and users; every interaction with the company is connected, and it’s important for companies to “think sideways.” For example, if you’re buying a new cellphone, the process will touch on many different phases including the store, unpacking the product, the service component, upgrading the service and use of the product in a certain context of use.

Don’t follow a silo-ed approach to business and design strategy, and encourage departments within your company to collaborate with each other. It’s just as important to look at your external users/customers, and determine how they use your product or service and what they find most meaningful about their experience with the company brand.

Perhaps the most important question that companies should be asking themselves is “How are people experiencing us?”

Tedde van Gelderen  is President at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi, email us at or visit


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