I was introduced to the concept of user centered design when I was in charge of web marketing and the like at Janus Capital Corp in 1998. At the onset of our third site design since I had been hired, our web design vendor pitched me on not only considering the needs of my business as we redesigned the site, but those of our customers, or, users as she called them. It was a hard concept to grasp really. But as she engaged me and I enabled her to proceed to developing personas, scenarios, and ultimately an initial site concept, I soon recognized that by heeding her recommendations, we could finally personify the Janus brand online.

By personification, it became clear that it was not only the visual design and content of the site that would personify the brand, but every aspect of the user experience – content organization, interaction design – and more, would create a means for Janus customers to immerse themselves into a brand experience like no other. It took me a while but I got it loud and clear. Every aspect of the interaction between customer and website reflected directly on our brand.


Having spent years in the agency business working in non-interactive mediums, well with the exception of direct marketing which had a modicum of interaction, this “aha moment” rocked my world. Why? Because although I knew that I could apply my substantive marketing background to the brand and customer engagement side of the equation, it would likely take years until I understood enough about online interactions to be able to really direct related projects. Fortunately I did so by partnering with some pretty smart consultants.

And now we’re hit with this concept of harnessing desire online and optimizing customer engagement. What HFI refers to as PET design. I can’t even imagine how people who are now in a position similar to mine above who are being introduced to the concept of designing for persuasion, emotion, and trust, must feel about this development. Sure, it sounds like what we’ve always done as marketers but my gosh, this is about taking the interactions I reference above and understanding them from the perspective of psychologists who have been digging into this stuff for dozens of years!

So if the application of persuasive design is rocking your world, even a little, as the initial online model did mine so many years ago, take a deep breath and remember, the brand is still the thing.