Growing Up Frictionless / by Kevin Landwehr

“When I was a kid, if you wanted a jacket you had to go to a tailor.”

“When I was a kid, if you wanted a jacket you had to go to a store.”

“When I was a kid, if you wanted a jacket you had to order it online.”

“I am a kid, and if I want a jacket… well, nothing. I do basically nothing and I have a jacket.”


Experience seekers today are hard-wired for a seamless world. For Gen-Y—Millennials, “Frictionless” added value; for Gen-Z through Alpha it’s simply the way they live; anything else feels messy.

Gen-X parents are deeply attracted to experiences that meet this expectation because in this environment experiences can be absorbed and enjoyed by everyone in the family.

A brand is a promise — a promise that’s either kept or broken the moment a customer experiences a brand’s product or service. To create strong brands, design experiences that frame your promise through design strategy, customer journeys, built environments, and satellite service touchpoints like these.

This way, at every opportunity and in every detail, your brand will reflect three all-important Gen X-A characteristics:

  • Modern
  • Relevant
  • Active Culture

Beautiful details that communicate innovation, activity, connection, and community support your brand promise, promoting your (frictionless) promise: A connected, human experience in a dynamic and technologically rich mixed-use environment.

Businesses that are killing it are taking this stuff seriously. Sure, you have to start with a great product — there's a lot of trash product out there hiding behind solid design strategy and frictionless web design, and they'll either improve the product iteratively or flame out along with their funding.

What’s critical is that leaders across departments engage with design experience as product DNA; and comprehend as well that “frictionless” is just the start, our new baseline, and really just one of five requirements for meeting Generation X-A expectations.


A Frictionless Experience

Clear, Concise, Intuitive


A Personalized Experience

Thoughtful, Considerate, Validating

While developing digital strategy, branding and website design for an historic institution in Chapel Hill, I presented a mini-profile of a potential experience seeker: a mother on the go and looking for something to do at exactly that moment. She whips out her mobile device and she types in the URL. She's trying to get to very specific information as quickly as possible:

“What do you have that I can do with a 5 year old? What if I have to bring a 3 year old brother along for the ride?” 

When in the planning process, customers make decisions based on problems they have to solve:

“I need something safe and fun to do that is cooled and indoors out of the rain, where my 5 year old can explore and my 3 year old won’t be overwhelmed or disinterested. They will get hungry at 4:15, so there will have to be food. And it can’t be mid-afternoon because it’s nap time.” 
Mom, mom, MOM MOM MOM MOM, mommy, mom, mommy, mom, MOM, mommy

Mom, mom, MOM MOM MOM MOM, mommy, mom, mommy, mom, MOM, mommy

This woman has EIGHT different requirements, and she needs to get answers fast, while handling a crying baby, preparing to pick the oldest up from school, and trying to get the middle one dressed.

Here, you identify a dated UX failure and abandon traditional search — this woman doesn't want Google-style search results inside an institution’s website. We can solve this problem with a fast, simple search tool broken down into 3 components: What/Who/When.


This significant improvement to the user experience asks a user the most important question:

how may I help you

“Hello, how may I help you?”

Don't expect users to help you help them.

Personalized UX asserts itself as a helpful agent from the moment a guest arrives. It illustrates clearly what a user needs to do to in order to find what they're looking for. It rearranges website content in realtime in ways that help the user.


A Unique Experience

Better, Memorable, Effective

How does your brand experience differ from competing experiences? 


Enhance the Brand Promise

Enjoy your heritage, celebrate shared values, be consistent

Build loyalty by offering consistently great experiences.

enhance your brand - trust issues.gif

Don't create trust issues.

Loyalty begins before purchase and ownership of an experience. Broaden outside of your typical space to give potential experience-seekers multiple opportunities to experience and advocate for your brand. 

Build loyalty over time, so when the moment for a decision comes, you are the first thought and a trusted choice.


Connect Emotionally

Validate enthusiasm for your brand by championing your customer socially, add quality to the community

Millennials have been accused being “The Me Generation”, but Gens Y, Z & Alpha are growing up inside the new social network. While kids under 10 may not be actively using these networks, their siblings and older school-age role models are, and they are receiving these messages on shows they enjoy. As a result they feel more connected than any generation before them, don’t carry the same social biases, and aren’t challenged by borders on a map.

The WE generation is increasingly community focused and want to use their voices to create change. Businesses that thrive over the next 5-10 years will be those who directly integrate that opportunity into their product experience. When we give the customer a sense that they are creating change, they see us as a valuable part of the change paradigm.

Find ways for your brand (especially your brand's website) to focus the creative energy of customers in ways that can be shared online, not just on your website, but on your customer's personal platforms.

Connect through shared values.

Product narratives that make sense of the world convey meaning to others. 

Across demographics, shared values give us something emotional to identify with, a feeling to attach to a logo or a name. 

Take your brand into the territory of "beloved" by expressing the attributes that set it apart. 

Tell stories that relate what your brand stands for to how customers live.


It has been my observation over the past decade that hot words like "empathy" and go-to phrases like “every brand needs a story” are really just symptomatic reactions to a big picture need. Problems today require multi-tiered solutions that fully tend to a crazy range of customer needs. “Telling a story” isn't the issue; the issue is connecting emotionally and telling a story is just one way of accomplishing that. “Being authentic” isn't the only way enhance a brand's promise; if it were, people wouldn't pay through the nose for a white t-shirt made by Chanel.

Ignore the echo chamber. When you pursue a complete, holistic approach to brand strategy, the best design reveals itself. 


Fascinating times.