It’s Time To Design Human Experiences Versus Products by Martin Zwilling Today’s customers demand more than a good product; they expect a great customer experience. A few companies are leading the way, including Apple with their iPad and iPhone, offering irresistible stores with friendly experts, elegant packaging, and customer service that never ends. People love Apple’s whole customer experience, and willingly pay a premium for the product.Much has been written about product design, but designing the total experience from the front rarely happens yet. In a new book, “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design,” Brian Solis details how to design the whole experience, rather than just the product. Solis is a globally recognized thought leader in this area, and he asserts that the experience is now the product.Every entrepreneur needs to learn how to do this by starting with the six principles of User-Centered Design (UCD), as outlined by Solis in his book, and already adopted by key International standards organizations: Apply multidisciplinary skills and perspectives. The total experience design begins with a common vision, but then must cross the borders between product, packaging, marketing, customer support, and many other disciplines. Human-experience design always supplements technology-driven design, and environmentally sustainable design. Explicitly integrate customers, tasks, and environments. Designers must factor in people behaviors, context, preferences, as well as customer goals and aspirations. The objective is to build a sustainable relationship between the product and customer. This requires people on your team who have real-world experience, as well as design training. Insist on customer engagement and user-centered evaluation. With the advent of interactive social media, as well as high-bandwidth video tools, there is no excuse for not involving real customers, and prospects who fit the desired demographic. With these, you apply common tools, such as field research, user groups, questionnaires and interviews. Include the total user experience from shopping to support. Experience using the product is only one stage. Others include the marketing awareness and education stage, online and in-store shopping stage, setup stage, support, and upgrade considerations. While there are many models for the design process, every stage should be included. Keep users engaged throughout design and development. Don’t assume that early input is adequate. In today’s fast paced market, trends and user needs evolve. Results show that when users are engaged throughout the development process, a number of key system requirements are identified that would otherwise be entirely missed. Make user-centered design processes iterative. Early testing of conceptual models and design ideas often suggests a complete overhaul and rethinking of the design. In all cases, designs can be refined and improved by iteration. Full customer experience use cases are key because they help identify interactions between stages of design work. Customer experience should be one of the biggest priorities in startups right now, but I still don’t see it happening. Technologists focus on building a product that works, marketing people try to build a story around the result, and support people figure out how to deal with customer feedback on shortcomings. Good customer experiences happen only by accident, rather than by design.Most new customers are now mobile or digital first as a result of the devices and apps that shape their lives. These products with their pinch, swipe, zoom, and instant delivery have reshaped customer preferences and decision making. A great customer experience today requires an acceptance of these engagement models and building on them, rather than ignoring them.If you are looking for a competitive advantage, creating a positive total user experience is the place to start. Too many existing companies have evolved into silos of expertise, which make user-centered design and delivery difficult, if not impossible. As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to take the lead, and become the world’s next super-brand. Now is the time to do it.