Much of the work of user experience is focused, as you might believe, on creating a great experience for the users. But what does that actually mean? As experience designers, we may say– it’s about heuristics, content organization, and making sure best practices in user interface design are being employed. This is important, but I’d like to suggest that is only one part to a bigger picture.
User Experience: Accommodation
In designing a system or product, we want to make sure we’re creating a comfortable experience for the user. With the rapid release of new technologies and form factors around us today, people have arguably less time to become accustomed to each new thing. As Frank Skiller says in his paper on Emotions as a Cognitive Artifact and the Design Implications for Products that are Perceived as Pleasurable, “Users do not want to have to relearn the system”.
The human mind tends to gravitate towards familiarity, and so it is important in designing to give users a sense of control in the devices they use everyday. This is where the aforementioned heuristics, best practices and techniques come into play. They have proven over time to help the user navigate through and interact with systems. This method in user experience is a necessary one and should serve as the baseline to any design. But I believe that if we design solely with user accommodation in mind, it’s not enough. Which brings me to the next topic.
Cognitive studies over time have revealed how emotions play a big role in judging and determining the quality and value of a product or system: “Emotions govern the quality of interaction with a product in the user’s environment and relate directly to appraisal of the user experience.” [Skiller, 2007]. Don Norman in his 2003 TED Talk discusses how much the sub-conscious mind gravitates towards “pleasing things”. It goes all the way back to how our distant primate relatives are attracted to bright colors and interesting shapes – such as fruits – it’s programmed in us as a form of survival.
Apple, for instance, has played a huge role in revolutionizing design and user pleasure, from the minimalistic aesthetic of the home button on the iPhone to the minute details such as watching a app whoosh away as you switch to another app. This kind of meticulous crafting of an attractive interface is what keeps people coming back – it’s a pleasure to use.
But it all comes back to balancing the two: user accommodation and user pleasure. At PINT, we have a saying:
“Don’t design just for design’s sake.”
Creating lots of cool effects or having a zingy design will have a limited affect without an underlying purpose. User experience really can’t just be just about one or the other. We need to create things that empower the user, and make it enjoyable to use in the process.
Spillers, F. Emotion as a Cognitive Artifact and the Design Implications for Products that are Perceived as Pleasurable, Design and Pleasure, 2004
Don Norman. “3 ways good design makes you happy.” TED Talks, 2009. Feb 2003