Cindy Chastain’s article, “Experience Themes,” at Boxes and Arrows outlines a neat way to package the concepts that help user experience designers put creative work into context.
When I was leading many design/development projects at a time, I’d write a creative brief for each—it helped me and the team stay clearheaded about each project. An experience theme seems like an alternative to a creative brief.
The following thoughts apply Chastain’s article to my work at Covenant Eyes.
Covenant Eyes is rich with stories
At Covenant Eyes, Inc., we have a full-time blogger, Luke. As I see it, Luke’s job is to draw out the stories surrounding Covenant Eyes and to share them using the Internet. He’s our storyteller.
What are the roles? There are so many stories, from people in so many places in life.
- husbands, fathers
- wives, mothers
- pastors, rabbis
- porn addicts, recovering porn addicts, people who have beaten the addiction
- and the list continues
What are some theme concepts?
- For people fighting a problem with pornography: Learn to be honest again (These words come from Michael Leahy’s mouth while he was visiting our offices.)
- For mothers with children who use the Internet: Protect my family
- For fathers with a teenage son: Teach him to be responsible for his actions
Experience transcends our services
What work do we do at our company? Although others I work with may claim we deliver software, I think we deliver information. Our software allows us to provide information-rich reports on Internet usage that can be used within relationships. I think of these as “accountability relationships.”
The theme concepts listed above have little to do with software or even our service. The real value we provide is that we can provide the sense for people that what could be their little secret is not actually hidden. That little bit of knowledge has proven its ability to change lives, and relationships, for the better.
The hard part is carrying the experience theme across our touch points with users
I recently helped put together a spreadsheet to inventory the automated emails we send to users at various points. There were over 60 emails, and they fulfill needs ranging from billing concerns to helpful reminders after a few weeks of being a customer. Many of these messages should be revised, and keeping the theme in mind will help create a coherent experience for our users.
Beyond these emails is a myriad of other touch points:
- sign up form
- help documents
- filter settings controls
- accountability reports
- tech support phone calls
- blog posts
- and so on
Taken all together, these communications can benefit from an experience theme.
I suspect the key to pulling this off is to have all those involved with crafting these touch points understand the experience theme and leave it to them to carry it through. As the company’s user experience lead, my job may be to facilitate the definition and adoption of an experience theme, and motivate and lead by example so others will carry the vision.