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In a competitive market – with broadly similar products – small details can mean the difference between success or failure.

What’s the difference between Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo Mail, for example? Step back and it’s hard to say. They’re fighting tooth and nail for market share by offering virtually identical webmail products.

Look closer and Gmail users will say that it provides a host of small details – none hugely significant on their own – that combine to give it a unique user experience. An experience that has helped it overtake its rivals despite a late (very late) entry into the market.
Look at any other commoditised market – cloud storage, tablets, phones – and the winners are invariably the companies that get the small details right.

I was reminded of of all this on a visit to a small sushi bar in Manchester. Nothing could be more competitive or fickle than the food trade. These guys know it, and they work hard on the small touches that make them stand out from the crowd.

Three little details in their restaurant elevated my experience from good to great.

1. Soy sauce

Kikkoman is like the VW Golf of the soy sauce market. It’s the gold standard against which all other brands are measured. It might not be the very best, but it has set such a high standard for such a long time it’s a good yardstick.

And if you run a sushi restaurant, Kikkoman is a safe bet.

UX-Sushi-Soy
Gold Standard.

Umezushi eschewed the safe bet. Their soy sauce was a thick, black, grainy concoction served in what looked like a tiny black teapot. When I stirred in my wasabi, I was expecting the sauce to change to the familiar green/brown colour. But this stuff is so strong and potent it subsumed the wasabi into its blackness. Delicious.

2. Ginger

Ginger is a staple condiment when eating sushi. It’s often served as thin pickled slices that barely resembles the ginger you buy in a shop, in either appearance or taste. Still tasty. But mass produced. And another safe bet.
The ginger in my ramekin was cut in thick fresh chunks. It tingled my nose and watered my eyes. And it tasted like honest to goodness ginger. Again, delicious.

3. Menus

It’s common for Japanese restaurants to show pictures of the food on their menus, and this can look a bit tacky to Western eyes. Umezushi put a nice twist on the tradition with hand-drawn pictures of sushi on each page of the menu. Along with quality paper and a nice typeface, I knew just by looking at it that I was in for a quality meal (despite the liberal use of exclamation marks).

Sushi-Ux-Menu
Sushi Menu – UX

On their own, none of these details would be worth writing about. Add them together and they start to shape the entire experience.

Of course, if the food was poor no amount of little details would make up for it.
On the other hand, no matter how great the food (and it was great) without these details I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Moral of the story? Details really matter. Customers notice them and they make you stand out. Find the ones that matter, and start tingling a few noses.

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