In a digital world your UX is your brand

October 2014

MIPIM is arriving in the capital at a propitious time. As the Mayor, Boris Johnson, said at the Conservative Party Conference recently, London is ‘going gangbusters’. For the property industry times are good. Rents are rising, yields are falling and demand is high. Boom, boom, boom.

However, London is more than just a great property market. It is also the epicenter of a growing tech startup scene and perhaps the European capital of design. And whilst TMT businesses are very much talk of the town in property circles, it is in fact our strength in design that has the potential to affect the wider business community the most.

By design though I do not mean what something looks like; design is more fundamental than that. To paraphrase Steve Jobs, design is how something works, not just how it looks.

Understanding this distinction is vital because in a digital world your UX is your brand. The user experience each and every customer, supplier or colleague enjoys in each and every interaction with your company IS your brand. It embodies everything about you, your product, your values, your culture, your worth, your reliability, your fundamental ethos. Put it all together and it is, as Jeff Bezos says, what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

And in a digital world, where bits are more important than atoms, and where people have more choice in where they live or work, and who they work, or shop, or play with, your brand, that essence of you, matters more than ever before. We all want to engage with people we respect, and people we respect engage with us through beautifully designed experiences.

So if I shop with you I want the experience to be designed for my pleasure, not your convenience. If I work with you I want to do so in spaces that are human, engaging and inspiring. If I use your website I want it to be formatted perfectly for the device of my choice, with well thought out navigation and ruthless ease of use. If I am using your software I want the experience to be painless, elegant and to the point.

What I don’t want is messy, dreary shops, dull lifeless offices, clunky websites that are unreadable on my phone or software that is ugly and painful to use.

The great brands of the future will be companies beautifully designed top to toe. By breakingdown corporate silos, tearing technology out of the hands of the IT department and by feeding off the combined intelligence throughout our companies we will build better businesses, products and experiences for our customers.

A beautifully designed company will relentlessly focus on simplicity and ease of use. As Einstein said, everything should be as simple as can be, but no more. Complexity needs to be hidden. Compare the average corporate dashboard with the Google homepage. One has a search box, the other most likely dozens of fields of disparate data stacked on top of each other. Which one gets you to an answer faster? So why doesn’t your corporate dashboard just say ‘What would you like to know’?

There must be a coherence of approach, so everyone understands how your company works. Dealing with your company should be easy for your customer. And the look and feel of interactions should be consistent. Drive one BMW and you can drive them all. That’s how working in or with your company should be.

Above all else perhaps you must set the aesthetic bar very high. A thing of beauty is a joy forever said Keats, and is there any reason why this should not apply in business? There is no need for white text on a green background, or hideous stock photography or page layouts that pain the eye. There is no need for poor or ill thought out design in anything. It’s just a matter of caring and being respectful to your users.

So in summary, before you commission a line of code, decide exactly what it is you are trying to achieve, how you can achieve that goal in the fastest, simplest fashion, and how you can make the journey there as elegant, painless and familiar to your user as is possible.

In other words think of technology as servant to design, not the other way around.

There is much talk at the moment of PropTech, the idea that technology will somehow disrupt the real estate industry, in particular bringing to an end the role of agents in the buying, selling and letting process. Well, this may occur but I doubt it. However what is certain is that companies with beautifully designed technology, that brings more transparency, ease of use and contextual intelligence to the complex interactions involved in real estate will out compete their peers. Too many in property believe it is all about personal relationships whereas in reality it is human insight on top of exceptional technology that will win the day.

And it is design that will bring it all together.

Your UX is your brand. Make it great.

Antony

This was first posted on the @mipimworld blog to coincide with MIPIM UK