Where does user experience begin?

I was lucky enough to be on holiday recently, and had a rather nice swedish massage in the hotel spa.

As I walked into the spa a calm came over me. After checking in at reception I was guided through to what seemed like a labyrinth of corridors and treatment rooms, all lit by candles and with soothing music playing from hidden speakers. I was instantly transported to a peaceful state of mind, and this was even before a hand went anywhere near my shoulders. After the massage I was then taken to the ‘relaxing room’, which boasted a light that pulsed with the rhythm of human breathing (just like my old MacBook!), and offered a herbal tea.

The spa had cleverly started my user experience before the massage began and kept it going after the massage had finished. I told everyone I met that it was the best massage I’ve ever had, but actually it was the best massage experience I’d ever had. Note the difference.

Apple have been dong it for years. I remember opening my cube-like 3rd generation iPod box and being delighted when it seemingly greeted me and told me it was ‘Designed in California’. Even my MacBook Air said hello when I opened its box earlier to year.

When it comes to web apps the user experience can and should extend beyond the site. Think about what you can do to create a holistic experience for your users – it might be great telephone customer service, personalised emails from real people, or even a thank you card in the post.

In fact I think that some companies have create such beautiful products that the user experience begins the minute you imagine yourself buying the item in question. Apple, again, have this nailed.

In an age when access to market is easy what differentiates you from your competitors is how long you can make that delighted feeling last.

UX is a journey, just like the one I made through the candlelit corridors at the spa. Make sure it’s more than just the product itself.

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