The 10 Rules of Successful Experience Design

By Jaime J. Izurieta
Founder, Storefront Mastery

January 7, 2021

Every entrepreneur wants to be the next big Founder. Capital F, big, Silicon Valley-type Founder. The privilege of sitting on the other side of the screen while typing this for you comes from risking it to become a founder many times in the past.

Founding a band, a museum, a city agency, an architectural practice and a city has left tremendous lessons to teach others. The first one is that knowledge compounds. Things you learn that may seem random and useless will come back to help in the future. Wisdom arrives when you realize that knowledge compounds. You eventually start making notes of every new, seemingly menial thing you learn. Then you become wiser. Up to this point, it’s still not possible to say you actually know something until you have taught it to someone else. Finally, knowing something is not the useful part. The curiosity, the ability to make connections and link random facts and boring bits of knowledge: those are the ingredients of creativity.

In the current rise of online and big box giants, small businesses need as much creativity as humanly possible to find a unique niche. After talking to many small business owners, it’s easy to see that creativity runs deep in them. Business owners have held all the ingredients of groundbreaking, creative practices on their hands for as long as they have been in business. Look at the most successful ones. They are the ones that have unlocked that superpower.

The life of a business owner is mostly consumed by dealing with taxes, payroll, permits, bookkeeping and other back-office activities. These tasks can be very similar for restaurants, antique shops, hair salons or any other business.

It is the front-office activities, the public facing part of the business that make them unique and help them stand out. That includes the ability to build friendships with customers and create a community of friends, loyal followers and steadfast advocates. It requires an eye to identify worthwhile partnerships along the supply chain that can add tremendous value to the business model and help them fulfill their purpose.

Another important element is the painstaking work to bring the most valuable products and services to their customers. Most owners invest time in those activities. What is usually left out is how the community building, strategic partnerships and product selection shape the experience when they work together.

The store is the most powerful machine a business owner has to create magic, boost engagement and make their business, block and district unforgettable. After deducting taxes and the cost of doing business, a typical small business will make about 7% of profit. With relatively small margins, retaining the services of a designer can be prohibitive for most. It’s natural that they would resort to DIY solutions, with varying results. There is a lack of easy DIY tools that go beyond what can be found on popular apps and design magazines. Neither guides business owners through the overwhelming process of creating great customer experiences based on their knowledge of the business.

Since back-office activities vary little from one industry to another and from one business to the next, they are easily standardized, so there are many available toolkits. Design, on the other hand, requires personalization, responds to the specific needs of each business and is usually based on the personality of the owner. It is one of the hardest tasks to carry on as a DIY project, and a key component of the in-store experience.

These ten rules for creating successful experiences have helped store owners make tremendous impact on their business, neighborhood and community by relying on the design of their storefronts.

Create a vision. Connect with the original inspiration to open the business and set a path for the coming years. This will guide the foundational story and inspire the community

Tell a story. The foundational story follows the owner’s path from inspiration to opening. It will guide the store design, the service ethics, and the experience

Stage it well. Customers seek experiences more than just products these days. An unforgettable storefront that appeals to each of the 5 senses will create memorable moments

Get in character. Aligning every aspect of the store, from design to service to stock with the vision will help the message be better understood by everyone

Meet the sidewalk. A well designed integration of the storefront and the sidewalk will create a “room” effect that attracts people’s attention and gently ushers them inside

Let people sit. People are naturally inclined to take a seat when it’s offered. Free, comfortable seating outside a store will attract others and increase foot traffic

Be transparent. Besides just using the storefront glass to design a display that makes people look inside, transparency is about showing the business’ values in the design, in the service and the brand

Control the path. The way people travel through a store defines how they feel, what they see, and where they stop. An easy to follow path from sidewalk to cash register will invite customers to be performers in a play and create tremendous engagement

Follow the golden rule. The physical shape, scale, proportions, and rhythm of the storefront elements support the message and create a psychological bond with the customers

Brand it. A coherent graphics system applied to every aspect of the business, from letterhead to invoices to sign to in-store notifications will add consistency and amplify the message

The principles have been developed after years of owning a small business and serving them from the private consultancy and also from the public sector. They can help any business up their game and become unforgettable to their community and essential to their customers.

If you’d like to find out more, you can find The Ten No-B.S. Rules For Successful Storefront Design at mystorefront.design. Jaime is the founder of Storefront Mastery, a creative agency that guides downtowns, main streets and the small businesses they serve to find their purpose, develop a vision and translate it into unforgettable customer experiences that improve engagement and sales. For more information, follow Jaime on Twitter @izurietavarea, and Storefront Mastery on Facebook and Instagram, or visit storefrontmastery.com