Trend #5: Focus on User Experience
Author Philip Ross  | 

The success of the iPhone, comparative to other smart phones, has bemused observers for years. But the magic is less mystery and more anthropology. At apple, the Human Interface Team meticulously detail each aspect of a new product relative to user experience. From haptics to use case to fit, User experience is built into every aspect of the design process, often with technology and functionality deferring to experience. At Apple they understand that experience is crucial. Similarly, much has been said about open plan offices, and that one upside of this pandemic may spell their final demise. As we assert to clients all over the world, the problem is not ‘open plan’ offices, it is the negative experiences that they are creating. We have seen open plan done well and we have seen it done not so well. When it is done well, based around user experiences, purposeful and well-thought through, they can be quite formidable spaces. These examples go to show how definitive experience is; as people in retail and hospitality know too well, a bad experience is a lost customer. At UnWork we harness such an ideology in our workplace strategy – for employees (at every level), clients, competitors, visitors and even passers-by, experience is key.

The D-school at Stanford have long been evangelising about the power of user-centred design through design thinking. Using an iterative approach – Understand, Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, test – design thinking places the user at the heart of all experience. In using a user-centred approach, designers can model scenarios and tackle problems before they emerge. Using such an approach enables teams to analyse insights and apply methods to find innovative answers. From real estate to law, one of the key allures of design thinking has long been the power to create inspirational experiences.

Rich user experiences are the culmination of intense research, design, strategy, and innovation. It is an equal sum of its constituent parts, and importantly, it is not always easy. Experience is important as it helps people have a good day, but experience is fundamental because its absence can be fatal. Much like bad airline experiences lose airlines customers, bad workplace experiences can drive away talent. In the next normal, taking account of our changing world, we hypothesise that experiences will become central pillars to an employee’s day. Technological equity, personalisation [and the ability to interact with your environment (via an app or other)], seamless entry experience, appropriate spaces to work, amenities and diverse and inclusive culture will become integral parts of the employee experience toolkit.

In designing the post-COVID-19 workplace, employers will need to dive deeper than a tokenistic coffee hub, creating and maintaining rich user experiences from couch to curb to crown will be essential. Thinking holistically about an employee’s work, modelling their days, flagging and fixing pain points create seamless experiences which are memorable. As the famous quote goes: Ease of use may be invisible, but its absence sure isn’t.” In a world soon to be overhauled with the emergence of hybrid working, we believe experience will be essential to preserving the new system; if experiences are not right, people will revert to type, and we will lose the great opportunity of this transformational period.

At Unwork, we help clients design a workplace strategy underpinned and enhanced by user experience. All indications show that good experiences will soon become synonymous with success. In the battle for talent, and in the auspices of an ever-changing world, we overlook experience at our own peril.