Design for Experience Awards Categories
Too few academic programs exist that provide a direct onramp into experience-oriented professions. This award recognizes academic programs in both traditional and non-traditional settings that do the best job of preparing students with the right information, skills, soft skills, and experience to contribute valuably to experience-driven projects.
Digital technologies have evolved to a point where making technological experiences increasingly accessible to people with physical and sensory impairments and those with needs for special modes of interaction is a real and exciting possibility. However, accessibility remains under-adopted as a hard-and-fast requirement for products and services, and rampant fragmentation threatens progress toward universality of accessible experiences. This award recognizes companies, teams, individuals, products, and services that are shining examples of how accessibility can be embraced to create experiential value for users and customers as well as economic value for the creators of the experience.
Companies that provide exceptional experiences in their products and services understand that user and customer experience are high-level strategic values, not just low-level tactical practices. This award recognizes companies that have thoroughly and effectively embraced experience-orientation as a strategy, and where success in so doing is evident in executive leadership, design and engineering teams, and the rest of the staff who have the ability to influence user and customer experiences.
User-centricity and attention to the quality of user experiences are usually not ends in and of themselves, but are rather the means to another end: driving business success. Put differently, it’s the business goals and economic interests of businesses that fuel user-oriented strategies and fund the creation of experience-driven technologies. This award recognizes new or redesigned products, services, and other experiences that made a major difference on the business’ bottom line through the application of experience strategy and/or creation of high-quality experiences.
As microchips have become cheaper and smaller, and as technological convergence has continued to progress, more and more experiences with physical objects and environments have integral digital components. As well, it’s become increasingly possible to design digital systems that can be interacted with by way of physical devices far different from the traditional mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen. This award recognizes compelling examples of bridging the digital and physical realms to create valuable new experiences.
The rate at which data is created and collected never ceases to increase, and the awesome volume of data that currently exists is a theoretical treasure trove for understanding the past and present and for predicting the future. To unlock the value of “big data,” new ways of connecting, interpreting and visualizing massive data sets must be designed. This award recognizes compelling examples of how the design of digital visualizations, interfaces, interaction models, and other user experience solutions have advanced understanding of complex questions.
Seen from the inside, companies can be messy, complex, and dependent on fragmented technological systems. But when seen from the outside, companies with successful customer experience (CX) strategies appear cohesive, comprehensible, and unified, and customers can interact with the company through a well-coordinated ecosystem of products and touchpoints. This award recognizes companies that offer a consistent, cohesive customer experience that maintains a sense of brand, delivers value and rewarding experiences, and is tightly interconnected and easy to navigate.
Increasingly, consumer products are being designed with user needs and usability in mind. This is indicative of the growing awareness and interest in the practices of user-centered design. This award recognizes consumer products that create or enable excellent experiences for their users, and whose design was strongly influenced by user-centered research and design practices.
Users interact with products and services through a growing diversity of platforms: installed software, mobile apps, web apps, smart TVs, etc. Each platform has unique strengths, weaknesses, constraints, uses, and modes of interaction. This award recognizes product and service experiences that span multiple platforms, make the best use of the strengths of each, create an overall experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts, let users move easily and naturally between platforms, and potentially offer capabilities that couldn’t have been achieved without the interconnection of platforms.
Great experiences originate the minds and combined efforts of effective experience-oriented teams. When a company invests in the design and creation of an experience-driven product or service, the effectiveness of the team is the most influential variable in the reduction of risk and improvement of upside potential. This award recognizes agencies, or specific teams within larger agencies, that consistently design or create effective or exemplary digital experiences on behalf of their clients.
Great experiences originate the minds and combined efforts of effective experience-oriented teams. When a company invests in the design and creation of an experience-driven product or service, the effectiveness of the team is the most influential variable in the reduction of risk and improvement of upside potential. This award recognizes experience-oriented product teams, UX business units, project groups, or any other kind of in-house team that consistently designs or creates effective or exemplary digital experiences for their company.
Children can be sophisticated users of technology, and with newer methods of interaction such as touch and gestures, digital systems are accessible to an even younger set of potential users. Every age bracket of children has different specific needs for content, navigation, interactions, and other aspects of product experiences. This award recognizes digital products for children that deliver excellent value, engagement, and ease of use for their users.
Technology has incredible potential to make a positive impact in people’s lives, whether on an individual level or in addressing societal or global concerns such as hunger, security, peace, the environment, and so on. This award recognizes digital products, systems, and other experience design initiatives that have contributed meaningful improvements to people’s lives, to society, and/or to the world and where the quality of the product or system’s user experience is essential to its success.
This quote from Henry Ford is very familiar to user-centered practitioners: “If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse.’” Sometimes the next step forward in technology requires looking beyond what people say they want to find an entirely new way to give them what they really need. This award recognizes digital products and experiences that were prescient anticipations of true user needs, and that led instead of followed their users to new ways of thinking about and addressing a problem or opportunity.
More than any other aspect of user-centered practice, there’s striking consistency in the user research and design techniques employed by practitioners and companies. Still, there are opportunities for existing techniques to be improved upon, or for altogether new ones to be devised. Similarly, there's a certain amount of uniformity to the design tools available to experience designers, such as those used to create wireframes and prototypes. Here, too, there is room for improvement and innovation. This award recognizes new or improved research techniques, design techniques, and design tools that have the strongest potential to affect the quality and success of the design of experiences.
Very often, the need for familiarity and intuitiveness in IxD trumps whatever desire designers might have to create unique or innovative interactions. Sometimes, however, unique combinations of platforms, requirements, constraints, user needs, and other factors demand that new interactions be devised or familiar ones be substantially redesigned. This award recognizes specific, designed interactions that thoughtfully and necessarily innovate or depart from convention to contribute significantly to the quality, ease of use, engagement, and/or effectiveness of the overall product or solution.
The line between the realm of advertising and those of software and Internet has gotten very blurry, and nearly every major advertising campaign has significant online and/or interactive components. However, many of these interactive components serve the needs of the business and its hopes for how customers might behave much more than they do actual customer needs and desires. This award recognizes interactive components to advertising campaigns that deliver real value, engagement, and/or utility to customers while creatively complementing the other facets of the campaign.
The ubiquity of mobile devices and mobile-platform computing has led to an astonishing diversity of mobile applications and solutions. The quality and usefulness of these is very inconsistent, though, and many are created without sufficient regard to the needs of users and the opportunities inherent to the mobile platforms. This award recognizes mobile applications and solutions that work with the unique device capabilities, contexts of use, and modes of use of mobile devices to expose new and valuable capabilities to users by way of exceptionally well-designed experiences.
While designing a product, service, or other experience, project team members have to make decisions with the best interests of users in mind. Very few of these decisions can be made in consultation with actual users, so it falls to the team to attempt to see the world from the users’ point of view and make informed decisions on their behalf. This award recognizes companies, project/product groups, and other groups that most successfully promote a well-informed empathy for users among team members that leads to greater success in their work.
Political, budgetary, security, and compliance realities typically cause the quality and usefulness of public sector technologies to lag far behind those of the private sector. Nevertheless, there are extraordinary opportunities to use user-centered practices to effect positive changes in governments and societies. This award recognizes digital solutions, applications, services, and other experiences created by or for public-sector entities that have made noteworthy use of user-centered practices to create solutions that significantly advance the work of those entities and deliver real value to citizens.
Most new digital products and experiences are created by businesses in pursuit of commercial interests. While meeting user needs may be a key goal in the development of these experiences, the realization of business goals remains the principal driver. But the means by which technology can be used to achieve a specific business goal isn’t always obvious, or the obvious solution might not be the best one. This award recognizes digital solutions, applications, services, and other experiences that represent the most creative and effective translation of a business strategy or goal into a technology solution.
Traditionally, designers and engineers worked in separate organizational silos, interacting by throwing deliverables “over the wall.” But now the two practice areas are more intensively collaborative and integrated, which results in more practicable designs, better designed implementations, lessened risk, and improved success in projects. This award recognizes companies, teams, project/product groups, and other assemblages of designers and engineers that are shining examples of cross-disciplinary collaboration in the achievement of success in creating digital solutions.
The job marketplace for experience-oriented practitioners is extremely competitive. To attract, retain, and motivate the talent necessary to build exceptional digital experiences, companies must focus and innovate on the environment they offer digital practitioners. This award recognizes agencies that have created outstanding work environments for experience-oriented practitioners that enable them to be productive and happy, and ensures low turnover and strong retention.
The job marketplace for experience-oriented practitioners is extremely competitive. To attract, retain, and motivate the talent necessary to build exceptional digital experiences, companies must focus and innovate on the environment they offer digital practitioners. This award recognizes in-house groups that have created outstanding work environments for experience-oriented practitioners that enable them to be productive and happy, and ensures low turnover and strong retention.