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February 9, 2016 /UX/UI Design /

UX Is Not Enough

Digital has changed everything. Business models, consumer expectations, working patterns. For awhile it seemed nothing was sacred, or would be left untouched. Companies scrambled to keep up, to build apps, to go responsive. Usability, design, and UX were in the spotlight as differentiators and must haves.

Now it seems, the mobile revolution is over. There is no digital strategy, only strategy. Amazon has a physical store. Hotels are using AirBnB to fill rooms. Retailers are putting energy into their flagship spaces.

Lots of attention has been paid to UX over the past few years, and rightly so. The ability to craft the digital touch points of an experience, and ensure that they are usable and delightful, requires careful attention to user experience. User experience design is a key tool in the digital world, one that can improve conversion rates, reduce user’s frustration, and overall get us closer to technological nirvana.

But UX is not enough. Today’s consumer, citizen, and user has high expectations and little time. People expect seamless experiences, start to finish, including the digital and non-digital bits. This seamlessness requires complex orchestration of all the components involved. UX is simply the thin end of the wedge, and most often, poor user experience or unusable interfaces are symptomatic of organizational challenges and misalignment.

Many people who work in the digital space are realizing that digital is one piece of the puzzle, and that the tool kit for driving value and staying in business goes beyond some UX hocus pocus. There is renewed interest and focus on holistic customer journeys as companies recognize that time and attention spent on their digital channels are limited by poor alignment with the rest of the offering.

There is growing curiosity about what the future of UX, and indeed design, might hold.

Some think service design will address the challenges, and that UX is on course to morph into service design. Indeed, service design offers tools and methodologies to zoom out and look at a holistic picture, such as service blueprinting and customer journey mapping. However, service design does not hold all of the pieces of the puzzle.

Customer experience is another field which takes a look at overall interactions a person has with a brand or service. Often from a marketing lens, customer experience seeks to understand, measure and drive customer loyalty, advocacy and satisfaction.

What we are in fact seeing is a convergence, where in a complex world, many more pieces have to fit together, with digital one component of a larger system. Digital is merely one channel among several – thus the idea of omnichannel experience is relevant here.

“In my opinion, User Experience, Service Design (this should really be Service Experience) and Customer Experience have always worked together and the terms have been used interchangeably across industries. It is the corporate world that has not realized, up until now, the nuances that differentiate these disciplines and the skills therein. Moreover, the industry is just starting to realize the business value we can generate by bringing these disciplines together.”

~Rahul Verma, Global VP of Experience Innovation and Design at Citi

Truly innovative experiences like Disney’s magic band, or the Cooper Hewitt pen, add layers of experiential delight on to how people use the service. For these to come together, user experience (UX), service design (SD), customer experience (CX), technology, and industrial design all play a role.


Image via TechnoBuffalo


Technology enables a level of invisible magic to take place. For a Disney visitor who has connected their credit card, the step of paying for anything during their visit is eliminated. This can be seen as ‘frictionless’ experience, where the unpleasant or time consuming steps are removed, leaving only  fun and fulfilling moments. There is of course risk associated with this, as it is easy to over spend when the act of taking out your wallet is done with.

The Pen in use on the interactive tables and the "digital river" of collection objects. Concetp, design, and production by Local Projects LLC. Initial Pen concept by Local Projects with Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Image via We Are Museums


At the Cooper Hewitt, the pen brings a personalized, curatorial lens to each visitor’s time at the museum. Objects on display can be ‘saved’ by touching the pen to the NFC tagged spot on the information display. The user can then access their collection at a personalized URL, long after the day of the visit. A physical object acts as the intermediary to a personalized online collection. While in the museum, the online portion of the experience is not front and centre, and in a way one could say that the core aspect is that of being in the museum in person.

However, this is augmented by a digital, online interface. UX is not enough – the entire experience has to be considered, and the collection available on the website afterwards is an extension of the visit. The bridge from digital to physical and back again becomes a well trodden one, facilitated by a view of the whole journey a user takes.


“If you envision three concentric circles, the innermost will be UX – the emotional response triggered by a user of a product or service, just outside that will be SX (service experience, delivered via service design) – the consistent emotional response generated by a user of many channels (omni-channel) and then the outermost will be CX – the emotional response that is generated as a result of realizing business value for the buyer of a product or service.”

Rahul Verma – Global VP of Experience Innovation and Design at Citi

While for some businesses, digital and online touch points will remain front and centre to their value proposition, for many, thinking about digital as one channel or one service within a service will be key to building value. Call it what you may, CX, UX, and service design are all ingredients to a successful experience for people and the organizations that deliver them.

UX/UI Design

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