Introducing the ACEAWE Experience Model

Introducing the ACEAWE Experience Model

For more than two years I have been making use of variations of the ACEAWE Experience Model in workshops and presentations to increase awareness and promote a holistic view of the work I do for clients. The model has always been well received and many have told me it has shed a new light on their understanding of UX (User Experience). It’s time for me to share it with the community.

I’ve found the ACEAWE Experience Model successful in

  • communicating the different aspects of UX
  • working strategically with mapping the complete customer journey
  • helping organizations focus on the right challenges

ACEAWE as in ace, then awe

ACEAWE comes from the phrase “Ace your service, awe your users”, which I will admit is an afterthought. It is my memory technique for remembering the letters in this acronym. The model is kept simple and versatile, and over the next weeks I will be illustrating how I use it as a thinking aid in everything from writing an article to developing a large-scale web service.

Bear in mind that the model is a result of having worked with digital media for more than 15 years. My background is in communication science, I have delved into many design books and I have looked at models from many different fields, including psychology and strategy, to arrive at this. With the help of more eyes I hope to evolve it even more.

Experience as a circle

This is how I summarize the parts of the experience to make it easier to work with, promote consensus in a project team or force a client to think beyond the usability of a website or app.

I tend to illustrate the model in a circular fashion, as the below image shows. This makes it clear how the user’s experience is continuous and also how a successful employment of the model keeps the product or service in motion.

The letters in ACEAWE thus illustrate a user flow that helps you process the parts of an experience you need to keep an eye on, and more easily identify where you may be stumbling:

Attract – This is how a user finds out about a service. Traditionally we may think of an ad, or more recently search engine optimization, but of course this also includes word-of-mouth, web addresses in printed material and links from other sites. The challenge herein lies in pinpointing what works best and/or how this happens today.

Clarify – Surprisingly one of the most missed parts of the experience is clarifying to the user what the service is about, what the user will gain from participating or how it will remove pain points from everyday life. Too often we we expect the user to jump straight in. The clarify step is about connecting with the user and showing we understand them, and perhaps have something in common.

Enable – This, in contrast, is the step that we tend to spend the most time on: making a service easy to use, helping the user most easily get from A to B using interaction design, copywriting and design details. This is truly important but problems do arise when we fail to see how the other parts of the experience can break the enabling efforts, and we pour more resources into enabling the user when in fact they perhaps could use a little more clarification, or even less interaction!

Adapt – A great challenge today is the amount of data that a user is expected to engage with, all the while managing a busy life. The opportunity is reaching the user on his or her own terms, most easily exemplified by making content available in a mobile experience but also by employing the concept of calm technology, giving the right information at the right time without requiring the user’s immediate attention, causing as little friction as possible. I like to mention the neat Alarm application that wakes you earlier if it has snowed during the night, or the task management app that alerts me when I’m in close vicinity of the shop where I buy my coffee pods.

Wow – The wow is all about rewarding the user for using your product or service. This is about empathy, sprouting happiness and reasons to come back to you. It is not so much about clean, intelligent design as it is about showing that you see the users and care about them. Many of my clients find this step the most difficult, which in turn highlights an inherent need to better listen to customers and stakeholders. Understanding people is all about listening. KLM’s undertaking to give little gifts to their passengers is an example of wow.

Extend – You have people’s  attention and they like you. Given the right tools many will be happy to help spread the word about your service. Not only that, some will likely have excellent input on how to further enhance or develop your offerings. Your user can become your ambassador, provide you with research data or even help design your products in a more hands-on approach. How well are you cultivating connections with users or customers to bring them closer to business operations?

As you can see, as you are able to extend your reach with the customers you connect with, they in turn help you attract more, and hence the circle keeps spinning. Finding and fixing the weakest links in these steps should be an ongoing endeavor for all organizations.

Relationship psychology

If you look back at the model again you will realise that the model has valid uses in everything from writing a blog post to fostering a personal love relationship. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since this is a common view of the challenge of modern day business: creating relationships with customers. I believe the teachings of user experience and service design hold the key to unraveling the complexity of creating popular and long-lasting ventures, by tapping into the components of what makes relationships succeed.

Over the next weeks I will be posting a weekly update to further dive into each of the steps in the ACEAWE Experience Model. Any feedback you may have along the way is immensely appreciated. If you want to start playing with it right away you are welcome to download this free template/worksheet:

Update in 2013

I've now written a book about AceAwe.