What makes a good experience?

It is said that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator. However, there is no fixed set of rules that makes the experience of one brand better than the other.

Experience can be defined as a series of events and interactions that leaves an impression on someone. Let’s break experience into parts to understand it better. I will try to break it apart using one of my daily experiences – my commute to work and how it became better.

Like many of us, I always thought the train ride to work was not a good experience. However, I did not have anything to compare it with until I started using the ferry for going to work instead of the train.

So what changed?

Onboarding

Getting onboard a peak hour train in Sydney can be a challenge in many ways. Not only is it a struggle to get on the train, the platform staff shouting at passengers has become a common scene in city stations. Compared to this, the ferry onboarding is not just easy but pleasant as well. The crew greets you with a smile as you get on or off the ferry, making one feel more relaxed than the train.

Comfort

Peak hour trains are often very crowded and getting a seat for almost an hour long ride is a matter of luck. In contrast, the ferry is much less crowded and getting a seat, even for a short ride is almost guaranteed.

Options

On a train, you can choose carriages, but each one is no better than the other. Once inside you can either sit down (if you are lucky) or stand in a crowded aisle. Those are the only options. In a ferry, one can sit down in the cabin, go out on the deck and even sit on the roof deck. These options let you choose the one that is most comfortable based on weather and mood.

Look and feel

On a train, the cell phone is your best friend as you can barely experience the environment outside. The train tracks run between walls and backs of the buildings which are not very pleasing to look at. The ferry runs along the river and beautiful riverside parks and homes and if the weather and time is right, one can experience great skies as well.

Newness

For me, the daily ferry ride is also something new. As like most new things it gets me excited every morning. It has become a part of my day that I look forward to more than the train.

Extras/perks

Since the ferry is a bit of a walk from my office as compared to the train station, I am forced to walk a fair bit – the compulsory exercise that I need to keep healthy.

These bits and pieces of my commute make the ferry ride a much better experience than the trains. In the long term, I will always choose the ferry over train wherever it is available without a significant change in travel time.

So, although there are no set rules, designing and iterating around these small parts of a user’s journey will always help you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Regardless of the context you are designing an experience in, there is always a way to improve a user’s engagement with your product and make their experience of a higher quality than what else is on offer.

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