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How can we design for emotional engagement and create positive user experiences?

The organizations and projects showcased in this case study demanded more than just an online platform for promoting their products and services. They needed to:

  • Discover innovative ways to engage their audience and build loyalty
  • Adapt to changes in customer buying behaviors, influenced by technology
  • Balance the need for standardization with the flexibility required for personalization
  • Empower their staff to participate in these efforts


I played a significant role in aligning teams to product strategy by shaping both the functional and aesthetic aspects of these user-centered experiences.


How can we empower non-technical staff to create and publish engaging content?


Situation and Opportunities

When staff can contribute their unique insights and expertise, the content becomes more diverse, relatable, and authentic. This resonates with a wider range of users, fostering a sense of inclusivity and connection. Additionally, the ability for staff to swiftly update content ensures that information remains relevant and up-to-date, enhancing user trust and satisfaction.

However, the practical implementation of this faced several challenges:

  • The outdated website didn’t match the business’s quality and needed an upgrade.
  • The staff excelled in delivering value to customers, but their digital tools didn’t allow them to fully showcase the essence of their business.

Through a collaborative partnership, we cultivated an intimate understanding of the client and their target audience. We learned that:

  • Providing exceptional hospitality and value are the core of their business.
  • 90% of their business is repeat or referral.
  • Guests love sharing their catch.
  • Guides have the tech and know-how to capture and upload photos and videos.

Actions

To translate these insights into action, our strategy was to craft an outstanding online user experience that revolved around the business’s strengths: spotlighting guest experiences and amplifying their endorsements.

I spearheaded project management efforts in collaboration with cross-functional teams to achieve the following outcomes:

  • The migration of their outdated website to a customized WordPress installation with an attractive design and updated features.
  • The migration of their newsletter to the Connect by Email SaaS.

Specifically, my role involved:

  • WordPress Migration Project and Product Management
  • Website IA/UX Re-structure
  • Image and Video Galleries, HTML Email, Blog, and SEO Tools Setup
  • Social Media and Wufoo Forms Integration
  • UI Graphic Design
  • Front-End Programming

My role encompassed a holistic approach that integrated customer insights, business objectives, and innovative design practices to craft an enriched user experience that aligned seamlessly with our product strategy.

For example, I utilized my understanding of the critical impact of Word of Mouth advertising in attracting and retaining guests. Working directly with designers to create a wireframe for the home page, we highlighted a testimonials slider. This slider displayed photos at specific dimensions, accompanied by varying lengths of text. I carefully selected, formatted, and uploaded 4-5 testimonials for the slider, which smoothly transitioned between them. Additionally, I integrated a CMS feature, researched by me, enabling non-technical staff to edit and add testimonials in the future.

Guided by our business objectives, such as increasing guest acquisition and retention rates, this design choice not only enhanced the visual appeal but also created an engaging and trust-building user journey.


Results

  • Empowering Non-Technical Staff to Post Updates: By democratizing website and email newsletter updates, non-technical staff were equipped to keep the digital conversation alive with the ability to quickly upload photos, videos, and testimonials.
  • Seamless Social Media Sharing for Enhanced Engagement: Making it easy for guests to share their experiences on social media directly from the website led to increased brand recognition and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Enhancing Attractiveness Through Re-Organization and Highlighting: Re-organizing and formatting the content to provide clear and complete information about prices, highlight special events, and showcase the beauty of the destination made their services even more attractive to past and potential guests.

How can we adapt to changes in customer buying behaviors, influenced by technology?


Situation and Opportunities

Enhancing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty is achievable through user-friendly online platforms and personalized recommendations. In pursuit of this, a rapidly expanding restaurant chain encountered challenges:

  • Ensuring its digital presence could efficiently accommodate information for upcoming locations.
  • Balancing consistent branding with the flexibility to customize local online marketing aspects like menus and maps.

Our research into the client and their target audience unveiled insights:

  • Offering personalized experiences like a mobile app could set the business apart in the competitive bar/restaurant market.
  • Customers value keeping track of and sharing their opinions on craft beers.
  • While most of the menu is standardized, local staff excel in knowledge of unique specials and available items.

Actions

We focused on utilizing the business’s strengths to create an outstanding online user experience that elevated their restaurant visit.

I spearheaded project management efforts in collaboration with cross-functional teams to achieve the following outcomes:

  • The development and maintenance of a customized Multisite WordPress MU platform.
  • The creation of an online inventory database staff could maintain.
  • iOS and Android mobile apps with user profiles for favoriting, rating, and writing tasting notes on craft beers, menus and on-tap locations of beers, as well as sharing via social media.

Specifically, my role involved:

  • Multisite WordPress MU Website Project and Product Management
  • UX, IA, and Inventory Database Structure
  • Text Club, Wufoo Form, Events, and Social Media Integration
  • UI Graphic Design
  • Front-End Programming

Over a span of 4 years, I balanced short-term goals with long-term product vision. This evolution was marked by the implementation of strategic features aimed at unlocking dynamic marketing opportunities.

For instance, as the franchise grew, the client shifted from a single standard menu to regional specialties and craft beer selections. Simultaneously, we understood the need for an online inventory system to showcase menu and beer items on both the website and mobile apps we were developing. I collaborated closely with our programmer to design the database structure and user sign-in system. This streamlined menu editing for the client, enabling them to make changes across websites and mobile apps from a single location whenever necessary.

My user-focused QA testing was also instrumental in building out the “Beer Experience” app features. This approach empowered customers to personalize their interactions, deepening the bond between patrons and the establishment.


Results

  • Social Media Integration: We harnessed the power of spotlighting guest experiences and amplifying their endorsements. User-generated content became a driving force as customers were empowered to share their favorites on social media, creating a ripple effect of word-of-mouth (WOM) advertising.
  • 5-Star Review App Success: Our focus on fostering personal connections led us to develop a user-friendly mobile app that earned multiple 5-star reviews. Staff members actively promoted the app within the restaurant, contributing to a rise in both app downloads and usage. Moreover, the app seamlessly integrated feedback and reviews on craft beers, facilitating engagement, opinion-sharing, and the formation of connections over individual preferences.
  • Online Beer Inventory Managed by Staff: Recognizing the value of localized expertise, we introduced a flexible content management system that empowered each location’s staff to effortlessly update and showcase unique specials and offerings. This approach not only addressed the challenge of rapid expansion but also celebrated the distinctive aspects of each establishment, providing a comprehensive and localized experience.

How can we balance the need for standardization with the flexibility required for customization options?


Situation and Opportunities

Standardization ensures consistency and familiarity, making it easier for users to navigate and understand a product or service. On the other hand, offering customization options caters to individual preferences, enhancing engagement and a sense of ownership.

The mission was to unify branding while preserving the essence of unique cultural camps. The objectives we addressed were:

  • Crafting a cohesive digital identity across 26 blog sites that reflects the institution’s values and diversity.
  • Enabling non-technical camp educators to seamlessly update and personalize their camp websites.

Delving into the organization and its audience, we discovered that:

  • Some campers engage in multiple programs, creating a continuum of participation.
  • Although they also offer adult language immersion camps, parents, seeking information and updates, are the primary audience.
  • Educators vary from seasoned instructors to former villagers turned counselors.
  • The posted content serves both educational and promotional purposes.

Actions

Our strategy hinged on empowering the organization’s strengths and fostering intercultural connections built on inclusivity.

I spearheaded project management efforts in collaboration with cross-functional teams to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Creating a customized Multisite WordPress MU platform, ensuring ease of use for non-technical users.
  • Developing six distinct base design templates that cater to the diverse cultural and linguistic aspects of the camps.

Specifically, my role involved:

  • Custom Multisite WordPress MU Project and Product Management
  • Online Community UX and IA Structure
  • Social Media Integration
  • Multi User Blog Setup
  • UI Graphic Design
  • Front-End Programming

I again took a comprehensive approach that blended user needs, business goals, and innovative design methods to create an enhanced user experience that matched our product strategy.

For instance, when overseeing the creation of all 6 designs, I prioritized the user journey of the camp educators. I carefully considered their requirements for updating the sites during camps, factoring in their skills, time, and needs. Viewing the websites through their eyes guided me in making decisions about editable components versus template-integrated elements. This approach also helped me simplify advanced features like image, audio, and video uploads, ensuring they were user-friendly across various devices.

Given the organization’s focus on language education, I directed significant attention to displaying text characters from languages other than English, such as Japanese, Chinese, Norwegian, and Russian. To achieve this, I selected font sets compatible with different browsers and collaborated with our programmer to safeguard proper language character display through effective database encoding and functional CMS features.


Results

  • Streamlined Management: The user-friendly WordPress MU system enabled non-technical users to post updates and simplified their training.
  • Cultural Representation with Unified Branding: Diverse template options integrated the organization’s branding, yet empowered camp leaders to select a design that authentically reflected their camp’s culture and language.
  • Enhanced Consistency and Accessibility: Mobile-responsive templates ensured the sites worked well across devices, and included language support.

How can we increase customer loyalty and enhance the recognition and likability of the brand online?


Situation and Opportunities

When customers have a strong sense of loyalty to a brand, they’re more likely to engage with its offerings consistently and advocate for it among their networks.

This nationwide company understood that positive interactions and a sense of trust developed through these loyal relationships contribute to memorable user experiences.

However, until that point, their focus had primarily centered on in-store retail endeavors and traditional media. So to shine in a competitive market, they required innovation in the digital and social arenas.

Our investigation revealed:

  • The organization values its retail locations as destinations, emphasizing the presence of friendly “experts.”
  • Their audience prioritizes expert guidance and is willing to invest more for tailored assistance.
  • Pooling user-generated and expert content in a centralized online platform would underscore their customer-centric approach and dedication to meeting diverse needs.

Actions

Our approach revolved around engaging users and encouraging them to share their outdoor experiences through visual storytelling.

I spearheaded project management efforts in collaboration with cross-functional teams to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Developed a new custom WordPress website emphasizing community engagement through blogs, gamification, and social media integrations.
  • Designed and developed the “Brag Boards” as an innovative user experience.

Specifically, my role involved:

  • Custom WordPress Website Project and Product Management
  • Online Community UX and IA Structure
  • Multi User Blog and SEO Tools Setup
  • Social Media and 3rd Party Social Gamification Integration
  • UI Graphic Design
  • Front-End Programming

My product management strategy took shape through early, pivotal discussions with the client about how they valued their loyal customers.

For example, to foster sustained user engagement, I conducted comprehensive research and integrated a third-party social gamification system. This strategic move aimed to incentivize users by offering rewards for various actions, such as liking and sharing content within the platform. As a result, we not only cultivated loyalty among our existing users but also leveraged their engagement to generate organic word-of-mouth marketing on other social media platforms. This ripple effect translated into heightened brand awareness and subsequently drove an upsurge in visits to the client’s platform. In essence, our gamification strategy became a catalyst for expanding the client’s reach and user base.

It also laid the foundation for my approach to maintaining permission-based marketing while establishing the user profile system. I oversaw the setup, customization, and integrations of these profiles, which served as central hubs for user engagement with brag boards, rewards, and blog comments. Thus, it was crucial to prioritize user privacy and preferences to honor their loyalty.


Results

  • Expert Articles and Event Promotion: The client’s blogs and event calendars, featuring articles from outdoor and sports professionals, effectively built trust and drove foot traffic to local retail stores.
  • Enhanced User Experience: User profiles and streamlined image upload ensured a seamless and efficient content sharing process.
  • Permission-Based Marketing: Implementing a user profile system with permission-based controls opened opportunities for future marketing initiatives and prevented spam.
  • Dynamic Visual Appeal: Collaborating closely with the software engineer to integrate the masonry system enhanced the “Brag Boards” image gallery with dynamic and visually captivating elements.

I find it interesting, but not unexpected, to see that all these organizations have navigated through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although they’ve adapted their strategies and technologies over time, they’ve all stayed true to a commitment to meaningful interactions and exceptional journeys. As a result, they’ve forged deep connections and amplified brand recognition. In a world that changes quickly, the commitment to creating amazing user experiences is still a strong guide to doing well in business.


Prioritizing Inclusion

Prioritizing Inclusion

Engineering Unexpected Happiness

Engineering Unexpected Happiness
Cas Johnson