What is the value in designing beyond usability? Maximo Riadigos and Ofer Deshe provided some answers answer in their presentation last Friday: Is the Experience of User Experience Design worth the Experience?
Riadigos and Deshe argued that designers should be aiming for more than usability – and more than usefulness – in the products and services they design. As an industry, if we are serious about designing “experiences”, then our designs should solicit an emotional response from the humans interacting with them. Several examples were given, showing products and experiences designed with an emotional response in mind. These actually offer a better user experience – and are therefore many times more successful – than products designed for usability only. Some of the examples shared were:
- A rubbish bin that makes a sound when people placed rubbish in it. Tweaking the experience of a mundane task actually increased participation. The result of this design was that there was less rubbish in the area and more rubbish in the bin.
- The U.S. Vietnam War Memorial. The names of fallen soldiers are not listed in alphabetical order, but in chronological order. Visitors to the memorial can “see” the history of the war expressed through loss of life, as the list narrows and swells and narrows again over time.
Riadigos’ and Deshe’s expertise is evident - they speak fluently not only about design, but also about the psychological principles that drive our emotional response to products and experience. Tools and techniques were shown, including an experience wheel showing how designers use different forms to help them see and understand people’s emotions at different stages in the experience lifecycle of a product. We also saw how different elements of design, such as affordance, can be used to facilitate an emotional response: to evoke memories of nostalgia, for example, in an iPhone recording app which displays a graphic of a retro-style microphone. Although it occupies 90% of the screen, the microphone graphic serves no functional purpose beyond provoking an emotional response.
The Q’n’A sparked a longer discussion, which we took with us to the nearby Slaughtered Lamb for post-Knowledge Share drinks. For some of the evening, we talked about the alchemy involved in using products and experiences designed with nostalgia. This particularly interests me. In my opinion, there is a dimension to this alchemy that designers too often forget to consider. Technology has changed very quickly and dramatically in recent years; and the rate is accelerating. This means that affordances and user experience paradigms are evolving and changing faster than ever. Our emotional response to nostalgia in digital products could be a collective reaction to a rapid rate of technological change. Perhaps we reach for familiar affordances to tether us as the flow quickens, and to raise our level of comfort and confidence faced with a bewildering number of options and experiences.
I am going to give this some thought. And I’m interested in continuing this discussion here. What do other designers think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.Back