A Whole New Digital Experience

I recently made a big commitment: I finally became a Mac person. After years—decades, really—of owning PCs, I was in the market for a new laptop. I’d long ago committed to the Apple ecosystem in other ways—with iPhones and iPads—but I’d resisted the computers. I had one at work. I was familiar with them. There were some things I liked, a lot I didn’t, and some features I was just apathetic about. (How can anyone be expected to learn so many keyboard shortcuts?) But there were two things that were important to me: weight and battery life. I wanted a laptop that I could easily carry in a bag without pulling my shoulder out of joint and that can run all day without being plugged in. Rather than spend more hours of my life combing through reviews to find which one of the many, many Windows laptops out there would be best, I took the easy route. I bought a MacBook Air.

If there’s one thing I truly appreciate about Apple, it is that the company keeps it simple. There’s no combing through endless models and deciding which features and add-ons you want. Even though Apple products are rather predictable, I found myself surprised by my new purchase. It wasn’t until my laptop arrived and I started putting it to work that I really started to understand the user experience (UX).

This might sound silly. We all have 100 user experiences a day—and I have to think and write about UX from the digital perspective—but when I finally immersed myself in the Apple ecosystem, I really got it for the first time. Although I used my Mac at work for years, it wasn’t connected to the same accounts as my iPhone or iPad, so I’d been missing out on the totality of the experience.

This is going to sound simplistic, almost silly, of me, but one of my favorite features is iMessage. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between messages on my phone and tablet for years, but for some reason, it never occurred to me that I would now be able to answer messages straight from the computer. (I know, I sound like a simpleton.) The idea that I don’t have to pick up my phone to answer a text—or, for that matter, a phone call—while I’m working on my computer is perhaps my single greatest technology-related joy.

But I had to ask myself, why am I—the editor of a magazine in which practically all I do is talk about the importance of digital experience—just now having an epiphany about what this all means? Why haven’t I already had some multiplatform, omnichannel, mobile-first, [insert other hyphenated buzzwords here] experience blow my mind?

Well, the truth is, creating that kind of experience is really hard. Apple has decades of relentless focus on the UX behind its products. It’s also important to note that when I talk about Apple, I’m mostly talking about hardware. The fact is, I know more than one person who complains about the Podcast app on a regular basis. Apple basically invented the podcast out of thin air, but for some reason, people are still downloading apps such as Stitcher to get their favorite content. Why? Because when we start talking about content, and the digital experience that surrounds it, things start getting a whole lot trickier—and even Apple hasn’t quite untied that knot yet.

There is also a chasm between the experience Apple can offer to users who purchase its products, interact with them every day, and use them to store their most personal information and what just about any other company that is haphazardly collecting data on the web can offer users. And frankly, it’s a lot less creepy when a reminder I added to my calendar on my laptop pops up on my iPhone than it is when some store spends a month chasing me around the web with ads for a sweater I decided not to buy.

Perhaps what we should be taking away from this—and from the level of enthusiasm that we see from so many Apple customers—is that a good digital experience across all channels doesn’t mean you stalk your users wherever they are. It means that you figure out what they need and you give it to them, no matter where they are.   

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