BT’s Design Team
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BT’s Design Team

Introducing our digital Experience Principles

Rebecca Hales and Rich Chong introduce the five digital Experience Principles we’ve created to show what customers can expect when they encounter any of the BT Consumer brands online.

Rich Chong, Head of Product Design: In BT Consumer we have five digital Experience Principles that help us create joined-up products and services that meet user needs. The principles are pretty new to everyone, so in June 2020 we released a series of videos to introduce them properly. Those videos and accompanying guidance — shared on our internal Slack channels and on Workplace — include some examples from our squads who’ve been working to put the principles into practice. We’re really proud of our Experience Principles and we wanted to share them here on the blog, too.

Workshopping ideas

Rebecca Hales, Head of Content Design & SEO: It takes time to get these things right. In 2019 we ran workshops with individuals from all Consumer Digital disciplines to ensure that any principles we came up with could be understood and applied by anyone, regardless of their role in delivering user experiences. There was some great work done at that time, with a comprehensive set of principles created. But we soon realised there were too many principles for everyone to remember, they were too detailed, and they were focused on our own behaviours instead of user needs and their experience.

We knew we had to simplify things.

So, in January 2020 we workshopped ideas around what it means to be a customer of one of our three brilliant brands. We invited people from across the BT Consumer and brand teams to put their heads together to answer the questions ‘What do we want our users to experience?’ and ‘How do we want them to feel?’.

We decided that customers want an experience that genuinely puts them first, is daringly simple, knows them, reassures them, and — if we’re lucky — amazes them, too.

For Rich and myself, the initial objective was to put down on paper the kinds of reactions we wanted to get from the team’s content design and product design work. From that original workshop, we brought those early ideas back to the BT design team. We asked content editors, product designers, content designers, and user researchers for their view on the draft principles. We did this via a drop-in session held on our design mezzanine at BT Centre. In the end, almost 20 BT design team folk popped along and shared their critique.

Workshopping early ideas for a set of principles to define people’s experience of BT products and services

Our five digital Experience Principles

Rich: So, thanks to that feedback, those five shared ideas about what makes a brilliant digital experience quickly became our five digital Experience Principles.

  • Puts me first (we know that if we meet user needs, business value will follow)
  • Daringly simple (everything is streamlined to leave only the essential)
  • Knows me (we connect the dots so our users don’t have to)
  • Reassures me (we communicate clearly and set the benchmark for accessibility and inclusivity)
  • Amazes me (we go beyond best practice: we aim to be a reference point for digital experiences)
We have these posters promoting the five Experience Principles on display around our office

Having a set of principles in place helps us to share some guiding beliefs when new people join BT Consumer and help anyone — inside BT and beyond — who wants to understand how we work and what we’re striving for on behalf of tens of millions of people.

The first principle places the user at the centre. We know we have to be clear about the user need and business goals we’re trying to meet before we start. But we also know we’re not just here to make things look good. We’re designing information that will amaze our users in any medium, on any device, however they choose to consume it. So our principles also respect our users’ time by keeping things simple, personal, accessible and inclusive. They encompass how we want users to experience all of our products and services.

Rebecca: As well as being evocative of what it’s like to engage with us as a customer, the Experience Principles are grounded in a balance of common sense and ambition. They’re supported by guidelines on how to put them into practice when creating digital experiences. In fact, they’re the foundation of our build, measure, and learn design process.

We believe that guidelines are more likely to be followed if they are simple, clear, helpful, and easy to share. So, we’ve organised ourselves around those five straightforward principles, which exist in poster format (pictured above) and in our design playbook, alongside some detailed criteria.

Rich: The Experience Principles are intended for anyone building digital experiences for bt.com, ee.co.uk, and plus.net. We think they’ll get better the more work we do and the more we test them out in action.

There’s a lot of practical, common sense stuff covered in the criteria for each principle. For example, the ‘Puts me first’ criteria reminds you to build quick prototypes to test hypotheses; ‘Daringly simple’ says you must remove unnecessary steps in a journey and code for speed and quality; ‘Knows me’ encourages you to present customers with options based on insight through research or powerful personalisation technologies; and ‘Reassures me’ puts the onus on you to clearly communicate how data is collected, processed and used and how securely we build our experiences.

But there’s a lot of ambition in the Experience Principles, too. ‘Amazes me’ challenges our designers to experiment and be bold. We all want to create world-class experiences and the Experience Principles and accompanying criteria are one way we’re helping everyone in BT Consumer do that, consistently and brilliantly.

Putting the principles into practice

Rebecca: We want everything we do to contribute to our goal of creating the best experiences that enhance our customers’ lives. Now that we’ve rolled out the Experience Principles and provided our people with concrete examples of what good looks like, we’re going to start using the criteria to assess whether a user journey is meeting them effectively.

We still need to work out exactly what that assessment could look like. It may be informal, such as some form of a self-assessment for squads to do on iterations of established products and services, or it may need to be more formal, for example when we’re launching a brand new experience (perhaps akin to the Government Digital Service’s service standard assessments). We’ll keep you updated as work continues.

If you’re working in a large design team and have experience of setting standards like this, we’d love to hear from you and compare notes. Let us know in the comments below or chat to me on Twitter or contact Rich via LinkedIn.

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Stories from the people designing personal, simple, and brilliant digital experiences at BT

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Rebecca Hales

Rebecca Hales

Head of Content Design and SEO at BT/EE

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