The Importance of Communication in UX Design: Takeaways from the 2017 Communicators Conference

Comm Con 2017 Brochure
notes and program for Communicators Conference 2017

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 20th Anniversary Edition of Portland’s 2017 Communicator Conference hosted by PRSA Oregon. It was a wonderful event full of inspiring speakers and top-notch communicators.

The conference got me thinking; effective communication skills are critical for conversion rate optimization professionals and design agencies. Understanding your audience and how to speak to them is essential to any successful UX design. By optimizing communication, you are optimizing your customer’s experience. Here are my top takeaways:

Focus on Storytelling

Andrew Robinson, a brand anthropologist, discussed the importance of using a simple framework for complex communication. This is incredibly relevant for UX design. Andrew argued that all communication should use a narrative framework. This means setting up a struggle and a resolution. How the customer gets from struggle to resolution is up to you, but make sure you take the customer across that story arc. It is our job as UX designers and effective communicators to help create a language and culture of narrative thinking. When designing an experience, try to craft a story that your audience can relate to and remember that “everything communicates something.” Make sure what your design is communicating stands out from the crowd.

Remember, It’s Not About You

nike - there is no finish line ad

It’s about your audience. It is easy to get caught up in your big idea and your own mindset, but what matters most is the customer. Andrew explored Nike’s 1977 “there is no finish line” campaign, one of the most widely recognized and sensationalized campaigns around (Click image to enlarge). A key reason this campaign was so successful was that it made the customer feel like the subject of the the photo could be them. In the text of the ad, for every one word about Nike, there are four words about the audience. If all the customer is experiencing with your design is brand placement, they won’t feel that special connection. So, make it all about them and “anchor yourself in the emotional experience of your customer.”

Make Your Audience Feel Understood

The last thing any customer wants is to feel like they are being talked at. By understanding your customer’s needs, moods and motivations at a deeper level you can create experiences that resonate with them emotionally, ultimately increasing engagement and establishing a connection that stays with them for a long time. Andrew put it best by saying, “make them feel known.” Make your audience the hero in your user experience story. Go beyond the surface – an experience that understands the user has endless potential.


“Resonance is the foundation of storytelling and reaching your goal.” Simply getting your customer’s attention isn’t enough anymore. “Resonance is the ultimate form of engagement.” 90 percent of all communication is ultimately about the “how,” yet most marketing communication focuses on the “what.” When designing a user experience, it is critical to create something that resonates with your audience. Focus on how your user experiences the journey, not just the destination. Getting a customer to see your design is great but you want their journey to stick with them. You want it to resonate.

Make Them Care

Piseth Pich focused on connecting with your audience before even uttering your first word. Piseth outlined four steps for making this connection:

  • Trust in the storyteller
  • Drama
  • Relatability
  • Immersion

One of the most important aspects of good communication and UX design is that you have to make your customer care. Piseth argued that one of the best ways to do this is to trigger the customer’s limbic system. This means making them feel a strong emotional connection to the experience you design. Customers won’t care about your design just because they journeyed through it, you have to make them care about it. Take them on a user experience journey that makes them feel something and makes them take a stake in your brand.

Comm Con - Two people on stage in chairs speaking

Closing remarks from keynote speaker Alex Thompson from REI and PRSA Boardmember, Mark Mohammadpour

The Communicators Conference was an important reminder that communication plays a role in everything we do. This means that clear and effective communication is particularly critical to successful user experience design. How you communicate with your audience, ultimately, can determine the success or failure of your design.

Thank you so much to PRSA Oregon for an outstanding event!

– Written by Sophie Ey, Jr. Marketing Coordinator

Diving into Personalization with Connective DX’s Ryan Summers

Crowd gathered during Camp Optimization for April 2017

If you weren’t at the Assembly Lounge in Revolution Hall at 6:00p.m. on April 27th, you missed out! This marked our April 2017 edition of Camp Optimization, roboboogie’s bi-monthly networking event for optimization and marketing professionals.

This month we had the exciting opportunity to hear from Ryan Summers, the Experience Optimization Lead at Connective DX. Ryan’s work at Connective DX has been focused on finding ways to help KinderCare increase enrollment rates by optimizing the customer experience using personalization. So, what did we learn from Ryan? Check out our 5 top take-aways from his talk:

1. Always Start with a Hypothesis

“Like any good experiment, start with a clear hypothesis.”

Ryan Summers, the Experience Optimization Lead at Connective DX in front of a presentation screen at Camp Optimization

This is the one thing all scientists know. Every experiment needs to start with a clear hypothesis – even experiments in personalization. For KinderCare, the personalization experiment began with this hypothesis: “by understanding the mindset of a person, we can deliver personalized content that aligns with our potential customer’s specific needs in that moment, ultimately resulting in improved conversion rates.”

2. The Customer’s Mindset is Essential

“Starting with a persona is great, but go backwards and unpack the mindset.”

Ryan Summers, the Experience Optimization Lead at Connective DX in front of a presentation screen at Camp Optimization

One persona Ryan and his team uncovered was a mother (they named Amber) who was actively evaluating daycare options for her child. Choosing the right daycare is an emotional and involved process. Amber had a robust set of requirements she was evaluating and, therefore, spanned a variety of mindsets depending on what criteria she was evaluating at that time. Ryan and his team hypothesized that there was a correlation between the content Amber was viewing and her mindset at the time she was viewing that content. A persona, like Amber, allows for a strong basis for personalization, but understanding how someone is thinking and feeling when they view your content is just as essential to conversions.

3. Personalization Should Focus on Fixing Customer Needs

“Understanding the mindset of a person, you can deliver personalized content that aligns with their specific needs at that time.”

Ryan Summers, the Experience Optimization Lead at Connective DX in front of a presentation screen at Camp Optimization

If you treat your customers like they are always in the same mindset, you are going to miss out on A LOT of conversion opportunities. It is essential to understand the different mindsets and then cater your content accordingly. This way, you can create varying content that matches the user’s needs across all of their different and changing mindsets, not just one of them.

4. Carefully Define Each Unique Mindset and it’s Characteristics

“It’s one thing to be able to know when someone is on your site and know who they are, but what can we show them that gets them through the journey faster?”

Ryan Summers, the Experience Optimization Lead at Connective DX in front of a presentation screen at Camp Optimization

Ryan identified five consideration criteria that his KinderCare team used to define the different mindsets their customers were experiencing when accessing the website. These criteria identified the varying characteristics and values parents would evaluate when seeking a care center. For example, the “family-focused” mindset valued the relationship of the teacher with the family over teaching expertise. Ryan shared that the goal of aligning to this criteria was ultimately to get Amber what she needed as fast as possible.

5. Ground Personalization Strategies in Proven Data

“Personalization is just experimentation that is highly segmented. The key is to validate that this works so that we can do it again.”

Ryan Summers, the Experience Optimization Lead at Connective DX in front of a presentation screen at Camp Optimization

One of Ryan’s key takeaways from this research was that “personalization should be grounded in data that can be reproduced for all stakeholders.” You need to be able to show why and how everything happened. Your model needs to be based off of something that you can go back, prove and build upon with all users and all mindsets coming to the website. So, what does this mean? The math matters.

When it comes down to it, mindset modeling in personalization often gets overlooked, but skipping this crucial step can severely limit the conversion potential. So, the next time you’re developing a personalization strategy, make sure you incorporate some mindset research. It will get you far.

If all this personalization talk gave you FOMO, come to our next Camp Optimization meetup event in June and get a first-hand look. Thank you again to Ryan at Connective DX for the thought-provoking conversation!

– Written by Sophie Ey, Jr. Marketing Coordinator

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