Design in Time

It’s been years since I choreographed or composed, I tell myself as I look at the 10ft+ cross-channel journey map I spent that last week creating. I look again and I step back for a minute. The multi-day journey starts to resemble a musical score, a symphony in visual and digital means. I take a minute, or a few, I’m not quite sure how long, but it feels like forever. In one afternoon, I’ve completely re-defined how I define UX and what it means to me.

We are composers and choreographers, we create things and experiences that move in time no different than a symphony or ballet. Our journey maps document those compositions like sheet music documents an arrangement.

In taking a look at this journey map I’m assembling, it’s clearly visible that at some points in time the various channels are in-sync with one another displaying the same information or message. At other points in the journey one channel is more dominant, more akin to an instrument playing a solo or a dancer having the stage to themselves.

As designers, we should be working to carefully orchestrate where we want customers attention to be going, what will be available to them, and how we communicate it all, cautiously deciding where the primary action lives for the users and how they are going to act on that action at any given time.

Imagine a digital product that has a number of sites and experiences that users interact with. It can be a physical kiosk, a website, a mobile app, a physical store or space, a TV, a car. Give each channel its own swim lane on the y-axis. These are the instruments in your ensemble.

Time is along the x-axis, same as a musical score.

Begin to visually capture screens and actions available to a user at any given point in time among the different channels. In one swim lane, an  email sent immediately after account creation points the user to complete setting up their account. In another lane at the same time, the website offers entry points into your company’s product but no mention of the completion of account setup. During the customer’s first six hours, which one gets the solo? Are all channels playing the same tune, with no solo?

As designers, we have the ability to influence the composition of these moments in time and decide where we want our users’ attention to be. We compose a digital symphony with the website as a piano, the mobile app as the violin, and email communications as a trumpet. In creating of experiences, we should strive to connect the dots for the user to keep the guesswork at a minimum. We should ensure that messaging is consistent between all channels and that we’re not asking the user to take 3 actions just because we can’t determine which one is more important.

If we don’t know what actions we want the user to take, the user will definitely not know what actions they have to take. We can use the journey map to better understand what we’re asking our users to do when.

Once we know the world in which the user is experiencing our product, we’ll be better equipped to guide the user as needed through the complexity of the products experience.