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It was 2015, and I was asked to help revamp the Mail Experience for Australia Post. It was a daunting challenge; millions of dollars went down the drain each week on mail, and we needed to find a way to keep up with technology while still providing physical mail delivery. We looked into how people interacted with Post Offices, how they shopped online, and the influence that had on mail and parcel deliveries.

To reinvent the mail experience, I turned to Human-Centered Design (HCD) and User Experience Design (UX) principles. Recognising user needs, preferences, and behaviours to help us craft a solution.

Combining these two approaches allowed us to bridge the gap between the physical and digital realms by creating screens that replicated real-world environments. We even brought elements from the physical world into our digital design to personalise the experience and merge the spaces. The result was a hybrid mail experience that initially received criticism but eventually improved for everyone involved.

Millions of Aussies still use snail mail, and technology continues to shape the mail experience. But it’s essential that designers always put empathy first and create solutions that meet users’ needs while embracing new technologies. This is no small feat, but it’s precisely what we need.

The redesign of the Mail Experience for Australia Post resulted in a user-friendly, intuitive, and seamlessly integrated digital mailbox that met the needs of individuals, small businesses, and large corporations. The team addressed concerns around privacy and security and anticipated and addressed potential glitches and technical issues during the rollout process. Flexibility was prioritised to ensure the service was customisable to meet users’ needs. The digital mailbox provided increased convenience and efficiency while retaining the same familiar experience people were accustomed to receiving through their physical mailboxes. The interface was visually appealing and consistent with Australia Post’s branding throughout the process. Users’ feedback has been positive since its launch in 2014.

Human-Centred Design (HCD) is a methodology that starts with understanding people and their needs. Then, it scrutinises user behaviours, motivations, and preferences to create holistic design solutions that make life easier for users. On the other hand, user Experience Design (UX) emphasises creating digital products and experiences that are easy to use and enjoyable.

Today, these two approaches have started to converge. UX designers are expanding their scope of work beyond designing digital interfaces to designing physical spaces and environments where all senses are considered. By applying Design Thinking principles, UXers strive to create inclusive and user-friendly designs that go beyond just meeting the functional needs of users.

Design Thinking is a process that begins with the user in mind. UX designers must empathise, understand and uncover their users’ needs, behaviour, and desires before they even ideate solutions. Human-Centred Design (HCD) allows designers to create natural and intuitive interfaces and seamlessly transition between digital and physical experiences.

The HCD/UX blend is an exciting development in the design world that enables designers to create meaningful solutions tailored to their users’ needs. This starts with embracing a mindset of empathy: walking in someone else’s shoes, listening closely, and learning how to interpret their actions or reactions. Showing up this way is hard work but it will set your designs apart.

It’s up to us, as designers, to make the world a better place and to engineer solutions that are intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable (and long-term). The most important task, however, is to always bring empathy into the equation. Design is something bigger than ourselves, and we all have the opportunity to create experiences that revolutionise our world; in fact, we all have the responsibility now to design solutions for humanity.

 

 

Ben Rennie

Co-Founder and Design Director at RENY®