Everything is a user interface. (Yes, even print.)

Everything is a user interface. (Yes, even print.)

Here’s a challenge that all marketers face … and it can be a particularly daunting one, particularly for those who are still developing their marketing chops. What, exactly should you be looking at when you’re assessing creative?

There are about as many answers to that as there are people who look at creative. But there’s one simple rule I usually start with, when assessing marketing creative, or giving my creative team feedback on the concepts they’ve just put in front of me.

You might even say it’s become the cornerstone of my philosophy as both a Creative Director and a consumer of advertising, marketing and branding messages.

Rule #1 – Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – is a user interface … and can and should be evaluated as such.

Whoa, wait just a minute you (and us) of “old media” might be saying. That’s a “Web Term”. What does that have to do with my print? Or direct mail. Or out of home? Or fill-in-the-blank.

Well, today, it pretty much means everything.

UX and UI designers know this, of course. Architects have known it forever. Engineers, too. But Marketers … well, maybe not so much. And, I will admit, I was a bit late to the party too.

In fact, as a baby copywriter, I always felt the only element of creative the user ever really ever “interfaced” with was the copy. And I also felt — no, scratch that, I KNEW — that the MORE WORDS I used, the more persuasive I could be … the better the creative would be. I would confidently cite statistics that indicated that the people with the highest propensity to respond where also the ones most likely and willing to read long copy.

But, as I have (hopefully) evolved from my copy-first worldview to the more catholic point of view of a Creative Director, I’ve begun to embrace the notion that words are elements of the user interface, just as much as graphics or images are. And, with our UI hat on, we can assess copy just as we would those other elements. Are they easily absorbed and comprehended? Do they lead the user to a specific action? Is each word necessary? And just how well chosen are they to fulfill on an optimal User Interface and User Experience?

And it’s not necessarily that there always need to be FEWER words – it’s just that they need to be strategically determined in order to deliver the response or action desired. Just like the placement of a web response button, the words and images of a piece of creative should work to drive the reader to a particular action. And there’s scads of brain based research that shows that action actually precedes a decision, neurologically speaking.

Here’s a particularly good example of this “everything is a user interface” philosophy

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. And you probably have, because this case study has certainly made the rounds. But the reason it has is because it’s just that brilliant.

People in South Korea work hard, and put in very long hours. As a result, they often do not have the time or inclination to visit the supermarket late at night when they finally do get home. So the folks at Tesco had this brilliant idea. What if we changed the user interface of the subway station into a virtual supermarket?

The walls were papered with long, horizontal sheets that showed the items a rushing commuter would most likely need – and want – to think about purchasing in a pinch. It was just like scanning the shelves at the local Tesco … only these “shelves” features QR codes the shopper could snap to magically add the item into their virtual shopping cart. A few clicks alter, and the grocery order was on its way to the consumer’s home.

Here’s a peek at how it works

If the marketers at Tesco can re-imagine the user experience of a subway station as a virtual supermarket, then can’t we as marketers make sure that the user experience of our print ads, landing pages, or brochures are as well-conceived as possible?

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