Designing for experience.
My first time at the Execuity office, I found Execuity on the call box, rang upstairs and the voice told me to “come on in” and “come up to the third floor.” Once inside, there’s a long tiled-floor hallway with one exposed brick wall. This hallway leads you to a small room with no windows and an elevator and two doors. Where am I going again?
Third floor. Got it.
There aren’t any other choices in the small room, except to take the elevator, even though I did spin in a circle (twice) to be sure. In the elevator, there weren’t any identifiers of what business is where – so I kept repeating third floor, third floor, third floor. It’s my first interview, so I’m a little nervous. And not having wayfinding signs is hard for me. I’m obsessed (and critical if I’m honest) with wayfinding signs.
When we decided to have a launch party at our office – I knew I wanted to design for experience – from the moment you opened the door on Main till you were comfortably mingling among the guests. The hallway and small room on the first floor are not hard to navigate, but they are also not inviting. I want the experience to be easy. I want guests to feel welcome. How could we change this?
I always take mental notes on what I like and don’t like about my experience at events and parties. I am fully aware that my experience will be different than your experience, which is different from every one else’s. So I tend to ask people I’m with (or randoms) what they thought. I also observe the interactions between people and the space during the event. Some people don’t care that you had to walk across the room to the ONLY garbage can. Or that there was no where to toss my toothpicks from the lovely cheese tray. Toothpick cups … look into it!
Based on all of my experiences, and feedback from others, I started thinking about all aspects of the Execuity launch party. What is the first impression? How do people like to be greeted? Do they know where to go once off the elevator? Where’s the bar? Where are the bathrooms? How easy is it to mingle? What’s the food situation? Do people have to carry a plate and a drink? Where can someone set down a drink in order to eat? Where are most people going to stand – near the food, the bar, or the tables? Again, where’s the bathroom?
Here are a few things I think about when designing for experience:
Do a full walk-through
Start at the front door (or even parking lot) and pay attention to your surroundings and how a new person would feel and interact with the space and your brand. Do you need signage? Is it welcoming? Do you need to set a mood or theme from the very beginning? For our party, I tackled the entrance first. We had signs on the front door so it was obvious where to enter. We put light-up arrows down the long hallway to reassure people to keep walking. There is now a lovely inspirational quote on the wall so you have something to read on your way in.
Consider the audience
How will people be welcomed to the party? Think about their purpose for being there. Are they networking? Are there people they need to meet? How do you facilitate those connections? I wanted people to be greeted right away, so inside the small room on the first floor is where the elevator cocktail was born. Our guests were greeted with a specialty cocktail (or bottle of water) for the LONG ride up to the third floor. They were personally welcomed to the event, and already had a beverage in their hand when walking in, and were free to look around and mingle.
Address the senses
This is one of my favorite things to think about for any experience. What are people seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching?
Seeing – Is your space branded? Is there a theme? Does what you are seeing set the right mood? We were celebrating our brand, new website and office space, so we had images that showcased these things, and let the space speak for itself. My favorite experiences involve well-thought-out wayfinding signs and images or decorations that enhance the mood of the event.
Hearing – Does what you are hearing enhance the mood you are going for? We had two rooms, one was meant for more intimate conversations with classical music in the background, and the other was a mix and mingle space where Pandora played One Hit Wonders Radio.
Smelling – Does the smell of the space match your brand? Does it go with the mood of the event? A great example of smell enhancing the experience are those wonderful German Roasted Nut kiosks, where you can smell the vanilla and cinnamon goodness throughout the entire building. Or Aveda salons with their signature scents.
Seventy-five percent of the emotions we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell. Next to sight, it is the most important sense we have.
Tasting – Is there a particular food or beverage that enhances your guests experience? We were not as focused on what the taste was, but how. All finger food! This makes it easy for everyone to eat. They could chose to have a plate, or just grab the many toothpick-ed items. And yes, there were toothpick cups for disposal.
Touching – What do you want people to do? Is there an interactive part of your experience? Part of the glory of the elevator cocktail, was that they already had something to do with their hands when they joined the party – hold a drink. Finger food also helps keep one hand free and open for handshakes when meeting new people.
When thinking about the entire experience – first impressions do matter. The elevator cocktail is now a thing … #ElevatorCocktail. We create one for most events held at Execuity. It’s pretty cool.
These are just a few ideas on what to think about when designing for experience around an event. The same principles can be applied to other types of customer interactions (online, customer service, in-store, etc.), but there isn’t an official checklist. It’s a way of thinking. To understand more about how customer experience, innovation and brand all should work together, check out this article.
Remember what makes a good experience for you, and try to incorporate those things into whatever type of interaction you are designing for.