Memories vs Experience

Recently, I’ve been thinking and reading about the difference between memories and experience. A trip to Ikea is designed to with this difference in mind.

Shopping at Ikea starts with travelling out of town, then trekking across a huge car park which quickly gives way to great looking showrooms and lots of cheap colourful things to throw in your bag. Theres a cafe with coffee just as you start getting tired so you can rest before venturing into the ugly warehouse where you struggle to find and carry all the new furniture you want. Then you queue to pay and realise that you’ve spent twice what you’d planned to, but before you leave you treat yourself to an ice cream. 

Once you get home and you’ve made all your new furniture, chances are your overall impression of the experience is favourable. This is due to the strategically placed points where Ikea’s store designers hope to trigger positive emotions. 

We remember the high and low points and our overall impression of an experience is affected by their serverity and position along the experience’s duration.

This can be explained by how our brain works, it’s pretty lazy. When asked about our trip,  effort is required to fully evaluate the experience so instead we use our memories as a heuristic. If we have a fond memory of eating ice cream or recall the feeling of finding a bargain then it is more likely we’ll respond that the trip was great.

We value memories over experiences, this explains why every gig is now a sea of glowing rectangles as fans frantically try and capture as many memories as they can. 

I’m interested in ways I can use this difference in my work. When designing a process like a checkout can it trigger positive emotions to make the experience more memorable? When investigating a customer journey are there missed opportunities to create strong memories that will improve the overall impression of the experience?

Once a customer has achieved their task and left your website or app all that remains is memories. These memories will form their opinion of your company and influence them to recommend you to friends. If your customer feels nothing, they will forget you; make it easy for your customers to love you and design for memories. 

More reading :
Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow

The pre-digital generation

In my early 30s, I belong to a rather unique generation. The last generation to remember a time before the Internet, before everything was digital, before the commodification of media.

This topic is one I often discuss with a friend and fellow experience designer. We have fond memories of the sensory experiences of reading a real book, the experience of hunting down a new band’s CD - taking it home and listening to it through for the first time, the sense of ownership and single tasking these out dated formats afforded.

The shift from paper to ebooks, vinyl and CDs being replaced with streaming and MP3s creates a conflict within us. We simultaneously appreciate their convenience while we lament the loss of experience. Is there an opportunity to create a hybrid format or device? Something that pairs the power and convenience technology with a lost beloved experience?

An iPad or Kindle with the texture and smell of paper, that wears over time.. with a subtle shift of weight as you progress through the book? An mp3 player that encourages single tasking, with no shuffle and makes changing album laborious? 

These products would allow a younger generation to experience media the way my generation consumed it. But would they want to?

(Reblogged from nevver)

Communicating the value of Design Research

The days of competing on price or features is over. Prices can be beaten, features copied. To truly stand, your product must be well designed and offer a rewarding experience.

Not all companies fully grasp the importance of design yet. Sure, they hire some designers and throw around terms like UCD and UX; but more than often it is without understanding. Working at one of these companies can be frustrating, you feel you’re there as a wireframe monkey or simply as a ‘geek that can draw’ to prop up and impress potential clients.

This lack of understanding isn’t the fault of our client or colleagues however, it is ours. As designers we need to pitch the benefits of design effectively and build this understanding.

As you’re reading this, chances are you’ll know that design research is critical to the success of a project. Sadly, this relatively new approach is difficult to communicate especially in a company or industry where it’s benefits are yet to be widely proven. It is time consuming and the output is minimal and deceptively simple looking, building a set of three A4 sized personas could take months of multifaceted research. 

Often the ‘faster horse’ story or the fallacy that Apple don’t do user research is used as an argument against design research.  You’ll face blank faces when you suggest a persona project or ethnographic study and you won’t get budget or time to conduct the research you want to do.

So, what can you do? 

Designers are passionate about their work, but are generally meek and vastly outnumbered by project managers, developers, sales and stakeholders. We need to share this passion for design and our vision for crafting a great experience with the rest of the company. 

  • Get the client or team involved
    This is my favourite technique and can be very effective. If your process is visible, it can be better understood. Invite stakeholders to design studios and persona building sessions. Get a sketchboard going on the wall, have the team play with paper prototypes, perform user testing sessions with every department.

  • Use their language
    Every department has their own language, spend time listening and get to know their lingo. Stakeholders seek ‘ROI’, Marketing want ‘engagement’, developers understand processes. Know your audience and when explaining a design or concept use their own terminology and jargon. Outside of our little circle, design speak sounds wooly and wanky so let’s keep it to ourselves, k?

  • Use appropriate tools to communicate
    Your client may roll their eyes at a persona, but love a video sketch. Again, this comes down to knowing your audience and presenting your work in a way it will be best understood. Experiment with different methods until you find something that clicks.

Most importantly, even if insufficient time or budget has been allocated or your work is frowned upon find a way to complete the research you feel the project requires. Get creative and make compromises to conduct whatever valuable research you can. Your designs and the project will be better for it and you’ll have the evidence to support the benefits of design research in the future. 

More reading :
Cennydd Bowles and James Box's Undercover UX
Adaptive Path’s Subject to Change : Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World

Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
(Reblogged from nevver)
Creative workers are not motivated by money, directed by authority, or impressed by status.
Alan Cooper (via mralancooper)
(Reblogged from mralancooper)

The language of UX

is plain fucking English.

It’s fine to talk about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, Gestalt principles, gamification, ethnographic studies, qualitative and quantitative research when talking to other practitioners, but these terms mean little outside of our little field. Nor does their use help our reputation of being pretentious douchebags within some circles.

Sure, buzzwords are handy shorthand for complex concepts, but are dangerous when not understood (watch a Web Developer respond to the term Web 2.0 for an example). Terminology can be interpreted differently too, leading to confusion or arguments about semantics.

We pride ourselves with creating intuitive designs and clear copy, but all too often we fail at communicating with our team. Anything can be expanded and explained in plain English, so why not practice what we preach and do so?

Software is not built with “resources”, nor is it built with “money”. It is built by intelligent, non-fungible people.
Alan Cooper (via mralancooper)
(Reblogged from mralancooper)
I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.
Saul Bass

Beyond usable

Usable is vanilla, its a C grade. Aim higher.

Nobody ever recommended a restaurant because the food is edible, they say things like ‘the menu had these great stories about each cocktail’s invention’, ‘they played this cool authentic music’ and ‘food is served on these antique plates’. It’s details like this that create a memorable experience and that keep customers coming back.

How do we achieve this on the web? You need to trigger emotions, make your users smile or feel like they achieved something awesome. It can be through great copy, the way you deal with complaints or quirky easter eggs in your site. Get this right and your customers will fall in love with your brand and become ambassadors.

Brand ambassadors will tell their friends about your product and be willing to engage at a much higher level. This can lead to drastically reduced marketing budgets and even allow you to crowd-source your support.

So stop doing usability testing, it isn’t enough for a task to be be achievable. Instead really observe users as they interact with your product and gauge their reactions. What could make this task more fun, more enjoyable, more rewarding?

More reading :
Stephen P. Anderson’s Seductive Interaction Design
Aaron Walker’s Designing for Emotion