I had the pleasure of attending a Jared Spool talk this evening hosted by the Atlanta Web Design Group at Hypepotamus in Atlanta. I’ve been following Jared on Twitter for a long time now and having read many articles on his site User Interface Engineering, I was very excited to hear what he had to say about the current state of UX design, and his general thoughts on the field. He touched on many UX topics during his presentation. I thought I’d share a couple with you.
(1.) Design For Experience Versus Activity
Simple concept. It’s easy to lose focus on the big UX picture in the process of checking off your users “needs” list during the design process. We’ve all done it. That needs list soon becomes a list of activities and tasks that the user needs to be able to accomplish. You then set about creating a design that allows the user to complete those tasks in an efficient manor. You pat yourself on the back when you’re finished because you’ve done an excellent job creating a design that addresses all the activities your user needs to perform, and it also functions well.
This design process is not horrible. The finished product may even look really pretty, uh hem…aesthetically pleasing. But what is the users experience like? Does it matter?
Jared used many examples during his talk to demonstrate that – yes, it DOES matter. One interesting example he offered is the different approach Six Flags and Disney have taken in designing their park maps. While Six Flags has every single ride and attraction listed and pictured on their map in an exhaustive list, Disney has none. They’ve opted instead for pictures of “lands” to visit with names like Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland. Park visitors are drawn to and visit different “lands” on the park map based on their impression of what they’ll experience in those “lands”.
In another example, he talked about GE’s Adventure Series MRI which takes the very scary experience of a child getting an MRI scan and turns it into an adventure. To solve the problem of children being too frightened to lie still, and having to be sedated in order to receive the scan, they redesigned the whole process from the moment the child arrives. For example, they may be greeted by an invitation to be a pirate for the day where they are then escorted through the office which smells of coconut, has been designed to look like a dock with water below, and the MRI machine looks like the ship. In both of these examples the activities of the user have been designed really well, but the big difference lies in the design of the experience the user has in completing and moving between activities.
In his talk, Jared called this designing the edges of activity. It’s along and within the edges of an activity where the opportunity lies to create a seamless flow, leading to the difference between a design being merely usable – versus a delight to use.
(2.) A Question of Success
From all their years of research over at User Interface Engineering they’ve come up with 3 questions Jared believes are an excellent indicator of a companies future success. The questions relate to a companies concepts of Vision, Feedback, and Culture.
1. Vision – In five years, what will the experience of your customers/users be using your design?
Everyone in the company should have an answer to this question, and their answers should be the same.
2. Feedback – In the last six weeks have you spent at least 2 hours watching people use your design?
Two hours is the minimum and 4 hours is better. Anyone involved in the design decision making should be taking part in this activity.
3. Culture –In the last six weeks, have you rewarded a team member for a major mistake?
It may sound strange to reward someone for making a mistake, but our greatest lessons and ability to innovate come from our focus on what didn’t work and why.
This was my first time hearing Jared speak and I came away from his talk tonight feeling inspired, validated, and motivated to continue my UX transition mission journey. This is a good time to be involved in UX design indeed.