As Steve Jobs said in a 2003 interview in the New York Times, ”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like… That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Apple, arguably the leading design-centric brand on our planet may have been the first company to understand the true meaning of “multi-channel design.” Apple creates continuous customer experiences that distribute features and capabilities appropriately across media rather than simply cloning design components across devices.
Consider the elegance and simplicity of interacting with the iTunes store from a Mac (or other computer) and synching content with an iPod, iPad or iPhone. If you are one of the few who has not at least played with an Apple device, let me explain that each interface is consistent, yet tailored for the size and capabilities of that particular device. The customer gets a robust solution from each device as well as a logical and continuous path to conduct activities between devices as their personal preferences dictate.
In today’s business environment, whether tasked with designing a game-changing device like the iPhone or a marketing campaign for bank customers, the designer should be thinking about what it will take to create a consistent experience across channels. Of course it matters how it looks but, no one will be looking if your main focus isn’t on how it works.
Here are three key areas to consider when designing a multi-channel customer experience framework:
- What channels will you include in “multi-channel?”
- What features will you make available from each channel?
- How will you create not only consistency, but continuity and logical migration between channels for your customers?
To paraphrase Steve Jobs – how is this going to work? Sometimes simple questions aren’t simple at all . . .
The bottom line is that the design decisions necessary to create an exceptional multi-channel experience are the same ones needed to create any great design:
- Decide who your target audience is. If there is more than one audience, prioritize them.
- Define what the target audience wants to do. If there is more than one activity, prioritize them.
- Determine the content necessary to lead them clearly and efficiently through those activities.
I didn’t mention decisions related to design aesthetics because, when designing in a business environment, chances are good that a lot of the look and feel decisions have already been made for you. You are given a palette of fonts, colors and even words and pictures in the form of corporate identity guidelines and shared content libraries. Often there is very little flexibility in the typical design aspects of “look and feel.” But the world of “how it works” is wide open and that’s where the true design opportunity lies.