Architecture and User Experience: An Unresolved Issue
UX (user experience) is carefully studied in many sectors in order to achieve better customer satisfaction indices. So why not in architecture?
Architects focus a lot of our attention on the end product of our services, the building, but relatively little on how we provide those services and how our employer feels about what we do.
However, market research shows that the customer sometimes attaches more importance to how a process is implemented than to other considerations – because processes can be long, tortuous, stressful affairs full of unpleasant surprises and anxiety, in which many parts are often lacking in transparency.
I’m sure you’ll say you treat your customers very well, and that’s probably true, but I’m talking about going a little further.
Have you ever tried holding the attention of a 3-year-old child? It’s really difficult. They get distracted straightaway, they get bored and they lose interest… I practise UX a lot with my nephews.
With customers it’s even more difficult, especially if they’re the end users of the building. There’s also apprehension and uncertainty. 0}
Now that architects are all seemingly much the same and we find it hard to differentiate ourselves and compete in areas other than low fees, UX offers us a way to endow our work with added value.
How do we look after our customer’s experience?
Improving UX goes beyond just being polite. Here are some recommendations:
- Concern yourself not only with seducing your customer, but also with looking after them all through the process. It’s a long journey: perceptions are accumulative and may turn negative because of just one bad experience.
- Map out the process and identify potential friction points, moments when the customer won’t experience positive things: for example, when they have to make a decision alone or go through some procedure they may see as difficult.
- Seek solutions for those friction points.
- You need to see things through your customer’s eyes at all times. This is one big exercise in empathy.
- Ensure continuity in your relationship. We sometimes disappear to draft a construction project and the customer doesn’t hear from us for two months. That doesn’t help.
- Make your customer enjoy the process. Your project could be an adventure, an exciting, motivating life experience.
- Help them to understand what’s happening at each moment, and make the process transparent.
- Use the tools that are available to you, and more besides. If you haven’t got access to augmented reality or to a CRM system, think up simpler ways for the customer to experience and understand the project.
- Create an ecosystem around your customer, with points of reference that will remind them of you. A detail here, a helpful tip or an unusual concept there….
As architects, I believe we’re prepared to take a step forward with user experience (when all’s said and done, we already make video games, and that’s one of the sectors most sensitive to user reactions). It’s a question of having the willpower to do it, of getting trained and putting it into practice.
And then watching the result and improving.