the x factor

In the marketing and design worlds, it seems that “X” descriptions are taking over everything.

First, there exists UX, a nice shorthand for “user experience.” Now, CX for “customer experience,” seems to be blowing up everywhere. Also, there is the use of PX, which stands for “product experience” or, depending on who you’re talking to, “prospect experience.” Adobe has an offering called XD for experience design, and, lastly, relevant to mention is the placement of an “X” after a “B” to represent brand experience. Regardless of the latest “X” du jour, there are commonalities between all of the “X” descriptions.

We often have the tendency to think that this “experience” stuff only exists within the digital realm—that’s not true. All our “experiences” in the digital world happens to practically mirror what occurs in the real world. I’ve written before about The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman, which strongly demonstrates that usability issues are present around us as both physical aspects and digital aspects. In fact, our lifelong familiarity with the physical world can be adapted to analyze the experience of the digital world.

UX: User Experience (and UI)

Anyone that has been around me for the last 10 years knows I’m into cycling. I’ve spent up to 14 hours, in a single day, on my bicycle. I know my experience with my bike very well. I can ask myself: How do I feel using my bicycle? How does it perform? Do I feel safe? Am I accomplishing my goal? Answers to these questions describe my overall attitude and personal interaction of the product, my bike, which ultimately defines the UX.

The UX on my bike is, in turn, influenced by the user interface (UI). I have a French-made, Time Sport bicycle frame. The rest of the bike is made up of many other components—made by Shimano, Easton, and others—all for different tasks but used to work together. As a user, I interact with the different components to accomplish something from switching gears to braking, and I’m very aware of the UI that I have with my bicycle saddle after several hours of sitting on it. The success of my ability, the UI, to perform tasks on my bicycle greatly impacts the overall experience.

CX: Customer Experience

I bought my bike at Contender Bicycles in Salt Lake City. Only after test riding other brands at other stores, did I debate and eventually check out the Time Sport website (the UI and UX). I stepped into a customer experience with the brand once I became a serious shopper, which lasted until I made my purchase. As a customer, my experience could have been ruined during time spent at a retail store—it wasn’t—due to the fact that CX focuses on the entire journey the customer takes. Had I been purchasing a bike for somebody else, the primary focus would be on the end user, and the importance of UX would be distinguished from CX. Additionally, success of one does not guarantee the success of the other. CX encompasses the whole experience from advertising to customer service and interaction to experience.

BX: Brand Experience

Though less common, I was aware of the Time Sport brand from seeing other cyclists riding them. I remember thinking it was a kind of odd name. That was my first awareness of the brand with a very limited experience. The very best brands create a narrative with emotions to help envision lifestyles and/or behaviors to create a distinct experience of the brand. Combined with great UX, the brand will stimulate the senses through interactive experiences. In the digital age, brand is experience.

Brands have been around since people began buying and bartering for goods. Though “branding” is a more recent term, the digital age has brought about greater visibility and opportunities for influencing the perception and the interaction between brands and their customers. Inasmuch as “brand” is a compilation of everything read, seen, heard or understood, it is the holistic sum of every experience. Managers now better understand that the logo is not the brand, rather the visual representation of an idea—a message, a promise—about the product and/or company.

Each level of experience is broader. The user experience is a portion of the customer experience, but the brand experience encompases everything and lives before and after customer engagement—without the brand, there is no potential engagement. The challenge often within companies is to cohesively manage these experiences across multiple departments and responsibilities. The best brands “just do it.”