10 Design Experience X-Factors

My mind was stretched by reading Solis' new book. Solis masterfully shared a narrative around the stunning importance and tangible positive effects on experience when business meets design.
11/30/2015 02:42 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2016

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. - Albert Einstein

"An organizational focus on design offers unique opportunities for humanizing technology and for developing emotionally resonant products and services," said Jon Kolko is the vice president of design at Blackboard. Kolko recognizes a shift in large organizations where design is closer to the center of how we work, how we build and go-to-market.

A set of principles collectively known as design thinking--empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them--is the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture. - Jon Kolko

Successful companies like Facebook have developed business design principles for crafting elegant tools, aimed at improving the customer experience. The 4 key principles include: 1. help people grow, 2. balance efficiency and effectiveness, 3. bring clarity to complexity, and 4. be accurate and predictable. The magical effect of beautiful design extend beyond tools and development processes. As John Maeda reminds us with 10 laws and 3 keys for simplicity, design must be at the center of everything that we do - this type of discipline requires an architecture. Maeda reminds us that good design is about clarity over style, and accountability over ego.

Design is a way of anchoring meaning in an uncertain world through marrying form with content, and content with context. --@johnmaeda

The elegant intersection of design and business can help companies deliver the experience X-factor. So what is the X-factor and how can companies create this magical experience?

Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in business innovation. As a digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, he studies disruptive technology and its impact on business and society. I highly recommend that you follow Brian on Twitter at @briansolis. His beautifully designed new book is titled "X-The Experience When Business Meets Design" and it is an incredible collection of case studies and research pointing to the relevance of design in business success.

Solis describes the X factors as:

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the last time you truly had a great experience with a company as a consumer, an experience that captured your heart, mind and spirit. What about it was special?

Let's call it "X" -- that Je Ne Sais Quoi that makes something so special.

This book is about X, creating such memorable moments for your customers through every encounter they have with your brand - all day, every day.

In his book, Solis emphasizes that no amount of advertising and marketing can override the effects of poor experience with your people or products. "Rather than spending so much on advertising, it's time to truly invest in the experience architecture," said Solis.

Good experiences grab customers
  • 40% of customers began purchasing from a competitive brand because of its reputation for good customer service
  • 55% of customers are willing to recommend a company due to outstanding service, more so than product or price
  • 85% of customers would pay up to 25% more to ensure a superior customer service experience

Bad experiences push customers away

  • 82% of customers have stopped doing business with a company due to a bad experience
  • 95% of customers have taken action as a result of a bad experience
  • 79% have told others about their bad experience

Solis notes that technology tweaking is not experience architecture. He clarifies what a good customer experience is not: it's not: a campaign, a click path, a feature set, a tagline, packaging, or use of colors on a page. Good customer experience is implicit and explicit design, conveyance, reinforcement, and shaping of meaningful and shareable experiences - all day, every day.

Solis strongly emphasis the mobile revolution by noting that 2 billion plus consumers are online and only 28% prefer to resolve service issues via the phone. The point where business meets design is where you create incredible experiences that are:

  • Imaginative
  • Game-changing
  • Unforgettable
  • Functional
  • Meaningful
  • Shareable
  • Actionable
  • Intuitive to the user, the device, and the screen
  • Contextually relevant to the consumers in their state of mind and intention on whatever screen they're using in that moment.

Solis defines a fresh approach to architect design principles into your business models will require:

  • In our ethos
  • In our brand essence
  • In our products
  • In our product ecosystem
  • In our marketing
  • In the click path
  • In our service
  • In our rewards
  • In our perspective about our digital customers

So how do business begin experience architecting? Solis references a successful customer use case with 4 building block recommendations:

1. Create an aligned and high-performance organization
2. Establish high-impact and customer centric processes
3. Assign actionable information
4. Enable technology to get the job done

Solis defines each of these steps with great detail and use case examples in his book.


To design experiences you must experience the journey yourself. - @briansolis

Solis notes that elite companies tend to pursue three imperatives to architect an impactful and meaningful customer experience:

  1. The design the right offers and experiences for the right customers
  2. They deliver these propositions by focusing the entire company on them with an emphasis on cross-functional collaboration
  3. They develop their capabilities to please customers again and again - by such means as revamping the planning process, training people in how to create new customer propositions, and establishing direct accountability for the customer experience.

What people seek is not the meaning of life but the experience of being alive. - Joseph Campbell

Solis reminds us that experiences are human and experiences are also more than products or designs. It's more than just serving people, but rather helping people change for the better. To achieve human-centric design with empathy and meaning, Solis points to factors that must always be taken into account:

  • Story - the narrative of the product, how it relates to the brand, and the consumer's role in the overall journey.
  • Design - the intended styling and aesthetics of the product and how it appeals to the consumers sense of touch, smell, sight, sound and taste.
  • Capability - providing customers with the ability to do something they hoped to accomplish - or didn't know they could do until your product.
  • Sensation - the architecture of how a brand and product should make customers feel
  • Expression - how the product aligns with the personal or professional lifestyle of the customer

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension. -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

My mind was stretched by reading Solis' new book. Solis masterfully shared a narrative around the stunning importance and tangible positive effects on experience when business meets design. I highly recommend this book to sales, marketing, customer service, product engineering, and research and development (R&D) line-of-business executives. I leave you with a final thought from Solis:

Sometimes the simplest moments are the most meaningful and defining, becoming unforgettable experiences that forever remind of who we are and what we love. - @briansolis

This post was co-authored, Jim MacLeod (twitter @JimMacLeod).