In the realm of user experience, customization has long been the gold standard that users have come to expect in their interactions. Increasingly, those customized experiences are being tasked to take a step further into a more personalized product.

This shift is driven by the need to offer the most tailored experience that expressly serves the need of the targeted user set, and further – can become a different experience for each individual user based on dialing in their own settings. The challenge is in designing a system that can accomplish all the necessary tasks, represent the brand – all while providing a ‘one of a kind’ experience for the user where the system knows them.

Personalization vs. Customization

A mixture of both customization and personalization is necessary to accomplish the most optimized platform, particularly with mobile. Differentiating ‘personalization’ from ‘customization’ is critical. The separation really comes down to who is tasked with creating the actions that change and manipulate the platform.

Customization offers the user the ability to make changes to the system to reflect their needs and preferences. This is inclusive of features such as: interface layout, content displayed, alerts, functionality, color and so on. Customization, while an essential part of UX, does not establish the the kind of trust and bond that personalization can bring.

Personalization, on the other hand is run by what kind of development has been built into the system – either from the onset or from what data has been gathered about the user. Content and functionality is offered to the user based on historical pathways, purchasing and browsing. Personalization increases the need for more creative assets that are contextually appropriate for target audiences. The push toward personalization demands new ways to source, manage, present, and deliver engaging content.

The Personalization Sweet Spot

Personalization has become such an integral part of designing a digital system in large part because it forges a connection with the user. Gathered from data that can include geolocation, google analytics and cookies – it’s important to choose which methods to leverage in order to ensure that a line is not crossed with the user. Getting too personal can cause the user to close off some of the data gathering methods. Understanding the user is critical to implementing the right avenues of personalization.