“The difference between the forgettable and the enduring is artistry.” Advertising giant Bill Bernbach’s words still hold true decades after he transformed the agency creative process in the 1960s by being the first to bring together the copywriter and the art director into one force.
Since then, copy and design have been inextricably bound, each catalyzing the other to produce the spark that communicates a message that exudes desire. Today, a third partner must be at that table. With the imperative to add a digital dimension to marketing and sales, the “creative technologist” emerges not only as a third member of this creative team, but as its driver, the sine qua non of a new creative revolution. That’s because the creative technologist adds in the X-factor that is indispensable today–a user experience that’s positive, habit-forming, even addictive.
The Technologist’s Role in Online User Experience
As e-commerce has long passed the stage of simply being a buying process, so the digital user experience demands more seamless integration of pioneering, functional ideas. Today and into the foreseeable future, the online store is about transforming the experience into something that didn’t previously exist. Enter the creative technology expert, whose role becomes central to making this happen.
Indeed, this is one reason why we’ve seen a fragmenting of agencies, with design work that would normally have been awarded to “creative” agencies now going to tech agencies. There’s a vast chasm between the skills of designers and technologists. OrYou can’t take a back-end ecommerce design challenge to someone trained as an art director any more than you could ask a musician, however skilled, to solve a complex calculation in suspension bridge design. Unless, of course, that musician is also a trained engineer. Organizations are increasingly turning to marketing technologist recruiters to handle this challenge in house rather than outsourcing to agencies.
Joining The Power of Tech and Creative
Overlaying the graphic designer’s function, the creative technologist transforms design into an operational digital-user experience which is in equal parts innovative, intuitive, and artistic in its own right. And it is within these experiences that brands can emerge as leaders in their digital space and deepen the consumer’s bond with the brand. Amazon’s One-Click ordering feature is a perfect example of a seamless user-experience enhancement that resulted in an increase in sales and usage and loyalty—all in all, an idea that stands as a perfect counterpart to a customer’s best-in-class, in-store experience.
Customers tend to engage with brands that understand how they shop and then deliver a process that enhances their shopping experience. We’d therefore argue that the evolution of the creative team to include a “creative” technology expert is essential to taking digital user experience to the next level of customer engagement. To do this, all aspects of the ecom process should be approached both functionally and creatively, with a heavy emphasis on the brand and what it stands for. And the very best brands do not stand in the way of their customers; rather, they simplify everything to achieve a unified, positive point-of-sale event, resulting in a lasting brand connection.
Let me lift the curtain to explain how the technology dictates the experience. Today’s ecommerce technology resides with the platform makers—companies like Hybris, ATG, Magento, and Demandware. These platforms are built by technologists and are used by technologists. Designers who understand the digital user experience are at the mercy of either the platform or the technologist. As a result, technology tends to prescribe how creative people can design the user experience. It’s not an ideal process. In fact, it should be the other way around.
The Ideal Process
An example of this is the accelerator that typically exists on a major platform. These accelerators are pre-packaged solutions, templates to assist getting an ecommerce solution up and running in a fraction of the time. They save development costs, but potentially sacrifice quality in the user experience.
The digital end-user experience needs to be the focal point of delivery both in form and function. Digital strategy should therefore drive creative and design. Up front, designers should collaborate with the technologist to know what’s possible given the constraints of the underlying platform or the technology assets being utilized in the development process. Sometimes constraints exist with the customer’s existing systems, and all of these need to be taken into consideration. But none of it should be allowed to influence the digital experience. Doing so may (and usually does) have a negative impact on the end-user experience, which is unacceptable in any ecommerce effort.