Towards a “total quality of experience” (TQX)

At the risk of introducing yet another meaningless corporate buzzword or stock phrase, I’ve been lately thinking about what it means to define a “total quality of experience” (TQX) as a way to 1) systematically define the critical elements of a digital product/service experience 2) cooperatively engage the various players of such development and 3) set up some measurable vectors of success.

The main motive, I must admit, is sneakily insinuating “good user experience” thinking into the corporate vernacular, alongside with acronyms like TCO, ROI, TQM, which (for whatever reason) already have gained the popular trust of executives and profit/data-driven decision makers at the highest levels of a company.

However, unlike such phrases like TCO or ROI, I expect TQX to convey greater significance than mere numbers or efficiency metrics. The phrase embodies certain core characteristics in easily digestible language that comprise a good user experience:

* style & brand — the visual/sensorial personification of a company’s value prop to customers; is it relevant, memorable, positive reinforcement, communicative, etc.

* functionality & performance — the features and technical capability of the product or service; do they work well and for the intended audience/situation.

* usability & utility — is it intuitive, usable, friendly, with all necessary affordances, etc.

* story & content — is there relevant and useful “stuff” to interact with, does it fit with user’s lifestyle/workstyle, overall flow and process, etc.

These are significant pairings that form a valuable foundation of elements necessary for any digital product experience to be well-formed and coherent, if it’s all done appropriately for a target user and situation, per research and design cycles. And of course these pairing bounce off of each other, blending and blurring in the actual engagement of the experience (ie, using the product or service).

Perhaps more important, each pairing relates to a typical major corporate function, thereby directly suggesting how someone who is “not a designer” can and must still impact the total experiential value of a product/service, per their specific perspectives/skills/abilities. Truly everyone within a company is collectively responsible for delivering a “good user experience”. (more on this later!)

* style & brand = marketing and brand identity
* functionality & performance = engineering / QA
* usability & utility = design, user research, ergonomics
* story & content = product and brand management, content strategy, and customer service as well!

Finally, these elements on their own individually imply certain vectors of success that can be defined, targeted, and measured in various qualitative and quantitative ways. At the highest level, a CEO can state these four areas need to meet specific goals independently and collectively, while at the ground tactical level, each individual contributor can cite specifically in their performance reviews what they did that advanced a goal along their respective vector. (for ex: marketing manager defined a quarterly campaign of brand awareness that aligned with content strategy team’s goals of , etc.).

Then these vectors become systematic, concrete, objective items that are benchmarks for success, meters for growth and evolution, and define the parameters of a strategic conversation in terms of overall product/service innovation and cultural change–rather than some namby-pamby esoteric hand-waving around random subjective elements.

TQX may become an entry point for designers to start proliferating the message of “good user experience”, not as a radical crazy new thing, but speaking to the business needs and encouraging cooperation from ALL members of a company towards user-oriented improvement and innovation. As designers we have to figure out how to insert ourselves into the higher echelons of corporate function/strategy. TQX could be a good start.

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