Six Key Traits of Human Experience Design

“Experience Management (XM) is all about people. Customers are people. Employees are people. Partners, suppliers, and prospects are all people. Even “organizations,” at the end of the day, are really just large collections of people. Everyone who is creating or consuming experiences is a human being…” – XM institute

Before an organization can effectively manage the experiences it delivers, it first needs to understand how the people who interact with it actually think and feel.

Your customers are having an experience with your brand, products and services regardless if you are consciously managing it. Organizations that purposely determine and develop the experiences that they deliver to their customers have higher customer satisfaction, loyalty, advocacy and consistent long-term growth.

While every person who interacts with your organization will have slightly different preferences and requirements for their experience, there are some universal human traits that you should recognize and incorporate into your experience design efforts to build deeper emotional ties with the people who interact with your brand, products and services. The XM institute has identified The Six Key Traits of Human Beings.

Intuitive Decision Making

People have two different “modes” of decision making. One mode is called Rational Thinking, which is slow, logical, and deliberate. The second mode is called Intuitive Thinking, which is fast, automatic, and relies on a set of heuristics (mental rules of thumb) and cognitive biases. Perhaps surprisingly, human beings make almost all of their decisions using Intuitive Thinking.

Your brand can either draw your customer towards your products and services or away from it. A great customer experience can elevate a purchase from a need to a desire. Smart companies are building relationships with their brand to create long-term value. They are developing enduring emotional connections with their customers to secure their brand and trust.

Ethnocentric Self-Centeredness

People naturally view the world through their own personal lens, which, because of their unique life experiences, is totally different from anyone else’s.  This individual perspective often separates the organization from the people it’s designing for. Employees and leaders are inherently more familiar with their own companies’ processes, structures, products, and services compared to their customers, partners, suppliers, or prospects. A disconnect can even exist between the people in, say, HR departments who are designing employee experiences and the employees who actually go through those experiences.

To better understand the experience across the brand, product and services, create personas, journey maps and service blueprints. Personas help you specify the context of use by identifying the people who will use your solution, what they will use it for, and under what conditions they will use it. Journey Maps illustrate all the ways your audience interacts with your solution. Service blueprints map your organizations people, process and tools that deliver your experience.

Emotional Connection

People remember experiences based on how they made them feel.

Emotions have a crucial role in our ability to understand the world. Studies have shown that an object that “pleases” us appears to be more effective. This is due to the affinity we feel for an object that appeals to us – an emotional connection.


People all strive to fulfill our four intrinsic needs: a sense of meaning, control, progress, and competence. When organizations are designing experiences for customers, employees, partners, etc., they need to spend less time focusing on things like monetary compensation or price – which fulfill extrinsic needs – and more time helping people feel like they are fulfilling these intrinsic needs.

We study mental models to understand our target audiences’ thought process. How they perceive their surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and their own interactions. Understanding your target audience’s mental model about your brand, products and services leads to discoveries and insights to inform your experience design.

Social Connection

Human beings want to connect with others who are like them. To create good experiences, Experience Designers should not only recognize that people’s social groups are an important area of influence, they should also help employees, customers, and partners build meaningful connections with each other.


People flourish when they envision a positive future. Organizations will be more effective at motivating their employees, leaders, customers, and partners if they paint a picture of future success that addresses their individual needs and aspirations.

Understanding Human Behavior. XM institute. Qualtrics.