20 thoughts on “Square, Airbnb and why experience really is design”

  1. Hi Om,

    Great article. Quick note: the link for Kevin Fitchard’s article has an extra “http” at the beginning and therefore doesn’t work on click.


  2. Great great piece. I feel that most companies miss the boat entirely on the design front (forgetting about the whole user experience – as design). The ones who nail it are the memorable ones.

  3. Great story, but there are several faulty data points here. Sukiyabashi Jirō is a singular experience and Jiro is notoriously obsessed with detail, but its the antithesis of customer-first restaurant. A sitting runs $500 and lasts roughly 17-19 minutes. Guests are discouraged from taking photos. Non-English speakers are advised not even attempt to make a reservation. Sukiyabashi Jirō is the exact opposite of experience-focused design. Product is the only thing that matters to Jiro.

    I think the reference to Microsoft is misplaced as well. The experience and design isn’t the problem with their newest products. Metro design language is years ahead of most forward looking companies today, yet the products continue to fail on launch. The problem is that of product/market fit, not experience and design. Reducing their problem to the latter obfuscates the most important point – everything must line up in order for the product to take off. Experience is only the last mile.

    1. You make a very important point: the nature and quality of the experience is irrelevant if it doesn’t fit the market context (customer need and situation). I would say that thus is exactly what experience design should be helping business understand. It’s not the last 10% of design that makes a great experience, it’s the 90% of understand what to do, for whom, and why.

      1. Patrick

        When you say, “It’s the 90% of understand what to do, for whom, and why” I nod my head in agreement. To Misha’s point, I think doing it at scale that can impact millions of customers is the silver bullet that can have lasting impact on a business. A case in point is Apple and so is Virgin America. I think Amex too is like that in many ways…

    2. Misha

      On Microsoft, I think you basically made my point. The point is that they have so many customer groups and conflicting stories that there isn’t a single narrative. Even Google for all its confusion has a single narrative – cloud is the future, let’s live on it (and of course click on ads while you are at it.)

      I think the key for Microsoft is to find the focal points, connect them together. Technology and products are only a part of it. Nokia tablets are a good starting point — I wish they don’t muck up a chance to create a seamless story.

  4. Great article!

    I’m a big believer that “the experience is the product,” and that ideally consumers engage with an “experience” without notices all of the “product” feature nuances. Actually, the goal is sometimes for the product features to fade into the background, precisely because the experience is so crisp, as you noted.

    For example, when consumers want to checkout on an e-commerce site or app, they expect the same payment experience, regardless of whether they’re shopping on a website, tablet, or smartphone, whether on the couch or at the supermarket.

    This doesn’t mean that the user interface should look exactly the same on all devices. It means that the seamless experience that’s optimized for iOS should be designed differently for an Android, and still differently for a website view on a desktop. But the same high level experience and design should be consistent across all consumer engagements with the product.

    Check out my blog post about user experience and design in Zooz’s Web Checkout 3.0

  5. Interesting.

    “Square, for me is that type of experience. I am probably not going to remember what font is being used or what color type is on display. What I will remember is a process of easy cash exchange”

    Yes, in fact Square Cash even uses an “existing UI” by relying on email. Which is a very clever way to solve 2 classic massive problems: change and aversion and the chicken-egg paradox.

    Here a blog post I wrote about this 😉 http://blog.mailjet.com/post/64682818912/solving-big-startup-problems-with-email-the-square?

  6. Great article @Om.

    I followed Nokia’s collapse from the front row, and completely agree on the need to focus on holistic experience. Nokia had great long-lasting hardware, but the software just didn’t deliver in competition against software oriented companies Google and Apple. Impact at Nokia? $200B share value lost over 10 years time.

    At BetterDoctor (http://betterdoctor.com) we try to build a startup that focuses on holistic experience. We have everyone (engineers, designers, marketing, sales) working together to deliver the best possible experiences. Learnings after two years? It’s super hard to get every detail ironed out while trying to be agile and fast to market.

    Would be great to hear opinions from other startups.

  7. Inspiring stuff.

    There’s a subgenre of UX covering just this, called Service Design. See Andy Polaine’s book on the topic.

  8. Om, experience design is hardly a new way of thinking about the world. Pump the brakes a little partner.

    Luxury hospitality industry, luxury auto industry & luxury goods industry have been thinking this way for decades.

    New to tech I will buy…….

    1. James

      I think the experience design used be to be something luxury goods industry -autos, hotels and fashion used to do. Not any more. Now they are priming the pump and that is why you see LVMH and others suffer the backlash.

      Hype and quality and marketing were completely out of sync and that has led to the rise of new boutique hotels and fashion companies are taking a step back.

      The idea of experience design has gone through a change and will go through further change as we start to see the blending of online/offline experiences.

      Well, at least that is how I feel.

      Maybe another article, soon 😉

  9. Know what else is sad: PayPal provides tools to totally integrate check out into a vendors site, thus removing the pain you just described. Vendors that don’t use it are either lazy or out-of-touch with the current tools.

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