Consider Delight, and Make the Mundane Memorable

February 7, 2014 Rob Domagala

When was the last time a product or service truly excited you?

nest smoke detector

Unpacking the Nest smoke detector.

Do you remember the last time that you were surprised or delighted by a consumer product or experience? Unfortunately there’s a good chance you don’t, because too many companies fail to spend time considering how to craft unique and delightful experiences for their customers.

The reason I bring this up is because I was recently delighted by the experience I had unpacking my new Nest Protect smoke detector. Now, think about this, I’m literally motivated to write this post about delighting your customers because of a smoke detector.

Unpacking a smoke detector…Talk about a mundane experience. But making it memorable is exactly what Nest has been able to achieve. And what was it that really floored me? My Nest included four beautiful screws for mounting the unit. These screws appeared to be custom, they had a great looking finish, completely flat heads that screwed in perfectly flush with the mounting plate.

They provided four even though you really only need two. They had long barrels so they didn’t require plugs, and they weren’t carelessly thrown in the box in a plastic baggy. Instead they were each mounted within the cardboard packaging of the unit, uniformly lined up, ready to solve the problem of getting this bad boy on my wall.

That’s how some careful consideration of the mounting screws in my Nest Protect made me so bloody happy with the whole product experience. Not only has Nest created a business by disrupting a product space that was desperate for innovation (so much so that Google recently acquired them), but they left nothing to chance and clearly thought about the user the entire time.

Delight is a rare occurrence

Rob Domagala

Rob Domagala of The Working Group.

Call me crazy, but I believe these experiences are rare occurrences.  However, when they do happen it’s a revelation…and they can happen across digital channels too. Remember when Path redesigned their platform and launched their iOS application they made many a user giddy with delight at the animated navigation they designed for the experience. I don’t know how they did it exactly (I heard they worked with Pixar in fact) but the team at Path did away with the “classic” iOS tab bar and replaced it with their spinner, something we hadn’t seen before.

In doing so they dazzled with this new animation, and they created an un-intrusive nav convention that freed up precious real-estate for the photos and comments making up the Path timeline. Users got to see more content in a single view, and engage with an interface that was remarkable for the time (and still is, frankly). It was instantly copied by numerous other apps, none of which I can even name, probably because their motivations were wrong.


Patience in Process

So how does a company set about to delight their users? I don’t claim to know all of the answers, but I think one key ingredient is patience.  There’s a distinct need to focus on user-centered design in order to find new ways to differentiate your offerings, but far too many companies forgo this for quick wins and reactive tactics.

The traditional agency model has been one barrier, where strategies are often conceptualized by a brand’s AOR, then outsourced to disparate digital shops for execution. I’ve spent time working in both the big brand and traditional agency worlds, and they have a lot going for them, to be sure, but this is often the model: Broad campaign strategy is delivered in-house, while platform development is outsourced. This can create a discontinuity in process and strategy, and it’s the end user that suffers, as they have been left out of a process which too rarely involves validation of their digital experiences.

It’s patience in your process and recognizing the value of prototyping and user validation that I think are the key factors in creating experiences that are surprising, memorable and delightful. When we define and design our platforms and products in isolation we often fall prey to the pitfalls of familiarity, a “Midas Mindset” where we are certain that everything we’ve touched is gold.

However, it’s often not until you put a product in the hands of your users that you truly gain deep insight into what they want and what will make them happy. It’s not always perfect, but user validation through your entire process provides a sanity check against decisions, and hopefully helps you unpack some desires that can be fulfilled with the end product you are building.

Is there a secret sauce?

Listen, I don’t claim to be an expert on how to create this type of magic. I think there are very few who truly are, but I am pretty confident that we all need to make an effort to figure out how we can bring true, unique value to our users or customers. Have some patience and reflect on the experiences that have delighted you in the past. Think about the care that went into crafting them, and what it might take to create a similar magic.

Email Rob or follow him on Twitter @robdomagala 

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