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How often do you find yourself on a website or app that is so poorly designed or optimized that it seems like nobody from the company must have ever used it themselves? User experience (UX) is a concept that has quickly found its way to the center of the digital world, and as a result it’s becoming an increasingly important aspect to consider in business as a whole. The goal of UX development is to ensure that a customer or user has the most functional, fulfilling, and relevant experience on target with the company’s brand promise. Since the brand identity itself is the overarching umbrella that should remain consistent across platforms and channels, it is imperative that the objectives of the brand be thoroughly considered before UX development comes into play.

It is important to consider that for many companies the targeted consumer may only have direct interaction with the branded materials for extremely short periods of time before moving on to other things in their lives. When interaction is limited to short bursts of connection over the span of days, months, and years, it becomes clear how important consistency is for a brand’s success. A disjointed experience in terms of function, messaging, or even appearance will only make it more likely for a brand to get lost in the shuffle. Especially in the digital realm where a huge amount of content is passed through channels on a second-by-second basis, an execution that lacks cohesion will be fighting an uphill battle to break through the noise.

However, given how important branding is to guide the development of the ideal UX, the reality of the UX and how it is received can have just as much influence on how the branding should adapt if necessary. A simple example would be the case of the invention of Bubble Wrap. It was invented in the late 1950s by Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, 2 engineers who originally intended it to be sold as wallpaper. Now, if they had decided their brand promise was to deliver a new kind of wallpaper that guests could ruin by popping bit by bit every time you stepped out of the room, the actual user experience in reality may have aligned perfectly. Unfortunately, Bubble Wrap turned out to be largely a dud in the home decor space.

Then with the release of IBM’s 1401, one of the first mass-produced computers for business use, a new opportunity came for the Bubble Wrap creators to rebrand. With some clever marketing shifts, they were able to convert the branding of their failed wallpaper into a low-cost method of protecting high-cost technology in transit. This adjustment based on an unanticipated aspect of the user experience has propelled the parent company, Sealed Air, to become a $4.5 billion-dollar company today.

Bubble Wrap was invented over 60 years ago, though, and things have certainly changed. With the increasing level of connectedness, the lines between brand and UX have continued to blur. Experience Dynamics is a firm that consults on aspects of UX and usability that gathered statistics from industry leaders like Adobe and Google to get insight into just how important UX can be. Unsurprisingly, they found that 96% of smartphone users had experiences with websites that were not optimized for mobile use. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, was that they also found that 52% of users claimed a poor mobile implementation made them less likely to engage with a company. This means that if the mobile UX is poorly executed, before a customer even has a chance to get a full picture of a brand’s identity, more than half will be lost or at least hesitant to continue. That is far from good news for a company that may have spent all of their efforts on developing a strong, well thought out brand but fell short in the UX department. Going further, 83% also said that a seamless experience across all devices is somewhat or very important, so the need for functional UX extends beyond just mobile platforms. In the end, the researchers concluded that “by 2020, customer experience has the potential to overtake price and product as key brand differentiators.”

If you consider the pharma arena, there is huge potential for brands that can nail an engaging and relevant UX. A large part of what makes a user’s experience memorable and keeps them coming back is ease-of-use. In a market where a majority of the consumers are either suffering from an illness or directly involved in treating it, implementing services that take weight off of their shoulders can be fundamentally life changing. Going beyond ease-of-use and access to treatments, another important goal should be working to bridge the gap between a patient’s experience at point-of-care and in everyday life. If the company is able to provide useful value that promotes overall well-being, such as nutritional information or exercise tips that may help ease symptom burden, it will go a long way toward building trust between brand and consumer. The result is mutually beneficial, because this type of connection will help a pharma company collect relevant data to better tailor their services to the consumer.

So while mobile apps and eCommerce platforms may be the first things to come to mind when you hear the term UX, its reach extends so much further. Nowadays most brands have some form of digital presence and a level of interactivity with the public. The process of brand development should be well planned out before UX is considered in order to help facilitate a better and more well-rounded experience. But brands must also be deliberate and vigilant in following up on analytics because customer behaviors and needs are evolving continuously. When executed correctly, branding and UX should harmonize in a way that provides a consistent, functional, and enjoyable experience for the user.

Written by Charles Powell

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We are a full-service, independent, healthcare advertising agency that provides end-to-end, sound strategic thinking and creative, multichannel solutions to pharmaceutical and medical device clients.

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