Transcend the Material

This is the challenge designers and vendors of interactive products face: Experience or User Experience is not about good industrial design, multi-touch, or fancy interfaces. It is about transcending the material. It is about creating an experience through a device.

Read the full post at InteractionDesign.org

Qualitative Interviewing = Adventure!

The first sentences in the book Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data by Herbert and Irene Rubin book read:

Qualitative interviewing is a great adventure; every step of an interview brings new information and opens windows into the experiences of the people you meet. Qualitative interviewing is a way of finding out what others feel and think about their worlds.

Through qualitative interviews you can understand experiences and reconstruct events in which you did not participate. Through what you hear and learn, you can extend your intellectual and emotional reach across time, class, race, sex, and geographical divisions.

Qualitative interviewing builds on the conversational skills that you already have.

Bold emphasis is mine. I think I’m going to enjoy this book. Fingers crossed!

Joyful Design, or, On Apple Products

I was raised to be a Windows fan; it was the only system people take seriously and where the “real work” happens. I believed this, in full, up until three weeks ago.

What happened three weeks ago? I began my summer internship, where I am expected to work on a MacBook (brand new!). A Mighty Mouse and a keyboard were provided. Just opening the boxes for these products had me oohing… the cardboard was so smooth! This was definitely one of those instances where Apple created a user experience through remarkable details. The smells, the feel, the way it was visually packaged… See Emily’s post on her love of the Apple packaging for more explanation.

Now to the little things that suggest I might defect to Apple Lovers Anonymous. I had the laptop on, and I plugged in the keyboard. It worked instantly. I turned to my co-workers in astonishment. “You mean I don’t have to restart for the keyboard to register?” Now, I realize this is true for all or many USB keyboards, but I’ve had bad luck in the past. Same thing happened with the mouse, which, by the way, plugged into the keyboard, so I didn’t have to sacrifice a USB port on the laptop. And get this, my Wacom Graphire 4 tablet worked instantly! Sure, I had to download a driver so that it configured to the screen size, but other than that, I didn’t have to worry about drivers, restarting, random error dialogs…

But the most remarkable detail so far, for me at least, is the log in dialog during start up. The screen is very simple. It lists all the users registered on the machine, and you can select your username and type in your password. One morning, when my fingers were fumbling, I typed my password incorrectly.

Lo and behold! On a Windows machine, the screen would have churned, trying to process this incorrect password, allowing me to think I was logging in when in actuality, I was about to have a little dialog box beep at me with a message that my password was incorrect. On the MacBook, the process was simple: the dialog box shook back and forth, the password text field cleared, and I was allowed to try again.

I mean it when I say I giggled, imagining the MacBook was shaking its head at me (perhaps sighing, even). I shrugged, tried my password again, and logged in properly this time.

This is what I mean about joyful design. Technically, I made an error and typed my password incorrectly. Rather than making me feel at fault, or stupid, the clever designers at Apple subtly told me I made a mistake, but hey, no worries, just try again. Remarkable details. Simple. Clean. I’m loving it.

Magic

magic-computers
via jacobbijani.

Oh, how completely true and brilliant that above image is. Makes me wonder whether this is a good or bad thing. How much does the “user” need to know? Is it okay for them to think the computer is this magical box that may have an odd quirk or two?

More importantly, why do I miss the days of seeing the computer as said magical box? Funny how such a feeling seems nostalgic.

Just what is UX?

Ario from LiveJournal recently wrote an excellent explanation about user experience that I just had to link. I’ve copied some of it below for posterity’s sake.

1. What is “user experience” (aka “UX”)?

In a broad sense, this field examines both improving existing products and the creation of new ones that solve some sort of human problem or fulfill a desire. More often than not, this mainly involves the design of web sites, web applications, and client software (programs that run on a computing device vs the web).

This narrow definition reflects the field as its practiced in techy areas like Seattle and Silicon Valley, but on a greater scale, “UX” means a whole lot more.

If you really boil it down, anyone who prepares anything for someone else to consume is a UX designer… so by this definition, we are all UX designers. Telling someone a story: that’s UX… DJs stringing together songs in a pleasurable way: that’s UX… the sushi chef who prepares an omakase style diner: definitely UX…. filmmaking = UX. No matter what the particular example, these all share the common thread of understanding an audience and satisfying some kind of desire (to be informed, entertained, etc).

2. Where do “user experience designers” work?

Going by the definition above, someone with this printed on their business card can follow any of the following routes:

A. working for a big corporation like Apple, Google, IBM, Oracle, Amazon, etc
B. working for a startup or small company like Twitter
C. working as a freelancer that goes from project to project with various clients (like my friend Sally)
D. working for a design firm that also has multiple clients (Adaptive Path & ZAAZ are popular ones)

A person in this role will spend their time thinking about how to make a given experience easier to understand and generally more appealing, hopefully even pleasurable!

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