• Retail Top 100 2012, No. 8: Experience design

In theory, experience design — or user experience (UX) design — operates from the premise that consumers wish to engage in a meaningful interaction when purchasing a product or service. In practice, experience design involves the creation of culturally relevant products, processes, services, events, and environments that focus primarily on the quality of the user experience rather than functionality. This emerging trend in “user-centered” design informs the latest in everything from intelligent buildings to Facebook apps, iPhone games and digital equipment.

Mobile adoption in the retail and financial sectors is fueling the drive toward smoother, more intuitive designs. Applying experience design principles to mobile, for example, would strive to eliminate clutter while requiring fewer, simpler steps to accomplish a task, thus providing a more streamlined and targeted experiences.

UX design is a highly multi-disciplinary field, incorporating aspects of everything from psychology, anthropology, sociology, computer science, graphic design and cognitive science. Depending on the product, UX may also draw on content design disciplines as varied as communication, instruction and gaming.

Emerging trends in UX design include designs that can adapt and perform within various media devices, gestural and touch-based interactions, location/proximity-based mobile experiences, smart real-time user interface, and designs that can adapt and perform within various media devices.

The rise of social media has increased the importance and impact of each customer experience. Because customer expectations and experiences are rapidly shared and distributed between peers, it is more important than ever that retailers engage in meaningful interactions with customers to make them truly empowered participants.

UX designer and blogger Whitney Hess’s 10 guiding principles can be applied to both physical and virtual world projects irrespective of goals, constraints, or resources. Her first principle is: “Stay out of people’s way. Pave the road for an easy ride.”

Download the complete Top 100.

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