PoetPainter - Thoughts
Friday March 27, 2009 / 3 Comments

The Fundamentals of Experience Design

Photo of my poster presentation at the IA Summit 2009

For some time, I’ve described the design of experiences with this potent little phrase: 

It’s all about People, their Activities, and the Context of those activities.

That’s it, really. Whether we are designing a Web app or new office building, simply ask: Who are the people we are designing for? What is the activity (or activities) they are trying to do? And what are the contexts in which they are trying to operate? And ‘people’ can be an individual or group. It’s that simple. On the surface…

Behind every explicit piece of information, we can dive much deeper for a richer understanding of the space in which we are designing. People are much more than users (or markets, prospects, players, stakeholders, or…). An exploration of activities yields more insights than simple task or use case definition. And context is so much more than a device or platform— from the environment we as information architects define to the environmental and economic context in which we work.

It’s these ideas that form the basis of my “Fundamentals of Experience Design” Model, which I had the pleasure of unveiling at the recent IA Summit 2009 conference . Think of this as my “grand, unified model” of experience design. Or something like that!

Download The Fundamentals of Experience Design model
(10M print quality pdf file!)
Download The Fundamentals of Experience Design model
(not quite so large 2M png file)

The origins:
This model/poster, as with previous Summit posters, is a personal attempt to resolve a number of different threads and conversations, this time around “designing for experiences”— any kind of experience, from shopping online to going out for dinner to checking out a book from the library.

The model covers the basic UX stuff like moving from a focus on tasks to a focus on activities, as well as more theoretical discussions like activity centered design vs user centered design. I also wanted this model to represent where I’m moving professionally: As evident in my seductive interactions presentation, I’ve become more focused on subjects like psychology, social design, game mechanics and other “deeper” human considerations when designing for experiences.

The elements:
For years I’ve been discussing experience design in terms of people, activities and the context of those activities. These are the core elements of this model. FYI, the poster you see is actually the third iteration— for several years, I’ve been exploring (1) how these elements relate to each other, and (2) whether there should be any other core elements added (I wrestled with things like “objects,” “tools” and/or “content”). Along with the considerations listed below, I’m comfortable with this particular representation of the ideas:

This is a simplified explanation (the poster explains all this much better!):

  • Experiences should focus on individuals and groups as people first, followed by our various roles as users, consumers, segments, stakeholders, employees, etc.
  • Activities can be anything you do, and aren’t necessarily task-focused (this is a problem I have with many of the UCD and Agile discussions). Consider passive experiences like reading The Onion, or entertainment experiences like iSteam. There’s a motivation for these activities, but there isn’t always an explicit task involved.
  • Context contains people and activities. Context for activities is fairly straightforward — environments, cultures, devices, etc. For people, there is a personal, implicit context that may affect an activity — having a bad day or finding out someone is in the hospital for example may have nothing directly to do with the activity (say, buying a pizza) but will affect the experience of that activity. Context also extends out further to consider the business, technological, cultural and social contexts that enable or affect the activity in some way. An easy example of this deeper cultural context is the editing out of the Twin Towers from the original Spider Man movie following 9/11— this editing decision recognized the emotions outside of the film itself that would have affected the movie enjoyment experience.
  • With the resulting peanut shape, I draw horizontal a line between explicit considerations (tasks, users, business goals) and deeper considerations— the insights, motivations, behaviors and other “softer” focus areas that separate good experiences from the great ones.

Here’s a “Cliffs Notes” version of all this, using first person callouts:
1st Person explanation of the Fundamentals of Experience Design Model

Some things I learned making this:

  • The importance of context.
    I’ll probably have to write a whole separate post on this. Needless to say, context is SO MUCH more than screen resolution and browser size! One theme that kept surfacing at the Summit was “context shapes behavior.” This is so true. On one hand, you do need to consider things like device constraints. On the other hand, you have to step back and look at the business context that is enabling (or standing in the way of) an experience.

  • These fundamentals are largely input considerations.
    In describing how different UX tools and activities might map to this model, I realized it was best suited for those things that provide input and insights. The output will vary base on your discipline (interaction design, industrial design, etc.)
  • Distinguishing between internal (personal, for people) and external (related to the activity) contexts. Basically, this is how something like “having a bad day” may affect an unrelated activity. How often do we factor in these personal contexts into our designs? This could be especially useful for contexts such as hiring sites, where a personal, emotional state might vary widely from individual to individual.

Feedback from the IA Summit:
During the reception and poster presentation, I got some great feedback from a ton of different folks. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Aren’t motivations specific to people, not activities?”
    I got this feedback from about 3 people, two of whom work at the same company. This was clearly a semantic issue, not an issue with meaning or intent. For me, motivation is specific to an activity— why you do something. I’d call those abstract motivations that get us up in the morning (to be happy, to change the world, to avoid conflict) “goals” or “desires.”
  • “What about the cultural context for people?”
    Behind activities is a deeper cultural context, why not the same for people? I’ve been thinking about this, and I’m thinking this is part of the internal context specific to a person. But, something to consider…
  • “Why are people separate from activities?”
    This has been the most challenging question, as there are good reasons to join people and activities within context (think two halves of a circle inside a larger circle). I’ve been sketching this, and while there is cause for this, it would also introduce new discrepancies — for example, business context is specific to an activity and not a person. I exist outside of a given activity until I choose to do whatever that is. This would introduce a problem not currently in the model.
  • “Should behaviors be a core element?”
    I’ve also been thinking a lot about behaviors, specifically the idea that “context shapes behavior.” I think the model supports this just fine. We design for activities, and we design or consider the context. The behaviors are how the activities occur within a given context for a particular person or group of people.
  • One final comment— people really connected with the floating chunk of earth! Apparently this a powerful visual metaphor for these ideas. Several people described this as a better iceberg model. I’ll go with that! When I chose this, I was thinking about tumbleweeds, and how badly designed experiences have no roots in natural human behaviors, desires or motivations. I like the idea that the deeper your roots go (more human insights and applied behavioral economics), the better the experience being designed will be… And I like the analogy that roots aren’t readily visible.

What’s next?
So, that’s some of the thinking behind my Fundamentals of Experience Design model. What are your thoughts? Does this help you in some way? In the poster, I list some ways this might be useful with clients or with practitioners. But, I’d like hear more about how you might be able to use this in your work…

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Thursday October 11, 2007

On Historicity, Club Penguin Coins, and the Nature of Experiences

People buy experiences, not things. And experiences are shaped, directly or indirectly by a variety of factors.

This was a central idea from my Classifying Experiences model— that our ‘perceptions’ (rational or not) about a ‘thing’ strongly influence the story we choose to create. I use the word “thing” carefully, since for many people thing equals product, which is rarely the case: people purchase experiences, not things. “Thing,” as I use it, can be a product (iPod) as much as a service (NetFlix) or an experience (Build-a-Bear-Workshop), though even these distinctions seem arbitrary when you consider what people actually buy.

Leisure Travel vs…?
My colleague and mentor Rob Moore got me thinking about this a while back when he suggested that someone spending $2,500 on a leisure vacation might be not deciding between two destinations (the Bahamas or the Virgin Islands), but whether to take a vacation at all, or spend that money on a new flat screen TV. A simple enough concept, but one that is pretty radical to people selling travel (or electronics), as it questions—fundamentally— the ‘thing’ being sold. Does that company sell sunny beaches and winter wonderlands. Or is it happiness, relaxation, and escape that is being sold? This is a subtle but critical difference in focus, as it redefines competition in terms of the ‘experiences’ people are willing to pay for.

Dev Padnaik from Jump Associates presents a similar concept in his paper System Logics: Organizing Your Offerings to Solve People’s Big Needs . He describes a hierarchy of customer needs, the highest of which are ‘common needs’, with common needs being defined as “the most fundamental and universal of all [needs].” These include such things as “the need to socialize, the need to be loved, the need to feel comfortable.”

In design research, we use a tool called ‘Ladders of Abstraction’ (similar to 5 Whys) to peel back the layers and arrive at these ‘common needs’ or motivations— pleasure, fear, whatever they might be. By understanding the motivations governing a person’s actions, we can design for ever better experiences.

Here’s where it gets interesting. (Bear with me as I get a wee bit philosophical!)

Star Wars
I’m a big Star Wars fan. And I have my share of action figures and other miscellany. But what is this, really? From an objective point of view, these 3 and 3/4” figures are nothing more than painted plastic. The meaning comes from the ‘story’ I (and many others) associate with these figures. This story can be the one from the movies, or it can be a story about limited access and collectibility. Could someone really charge $7 for a figure with no such story to back it up?

Vintage Star Wars figures

These plastic objects have value because of something I (and others) project upon them. My ‘satisfaction’ then is not so much in the object itself but in my perceptions of the object. Perception is reality.

So then, why am I getting hung up over spending real money for virtual objects? Read on…

Club Penguin

My 7-year-olds’ latest obsession is… Club Penguin. Think of this as World of Warcraft or Second Life for young children. A giant online world with over 1 million other ‘kids-as-penguin avatars’ doing penguin things.
Club Penguin Icon
Playing the game is free. And you can easily ‘earn’ penguin coins through various games and activities. But if you want to spend these virtual coins on something cool — like a tux for your penguin, or a flat screen TV for your igloo, you have to subscribe to Club Penguin. And to subscribe, you have to pay real money.

Real money for what… pixels? This was my initial thinking.

But what is it we actually buy for our children? Is it an object, or joy? (However temporary!) Even more ‘permanent’ things like action figures get tossed away, donated, or shelved. In a sense, they are just as virtual or temporal as a virtual purchase.

Ownership is of value only where it’s part of the story (as with collecting). But in many cases, what’s being purchased is the effect of ownership— a perception, meaning, or story— and not an actual ‘thing’. In this sense, how different then are virtual purchases and ‘real’ purchases if what is really being bought and sold is something reflective— an emotional response.

And here’s my final thought on this matter, one that I think about from time to time. Years ago, I read Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in the High Castle. As with many of Dick’s stories, he explores themes of ‘authenticity’ and what makes something ‘real’. This forms the central theme of Bladerunner (aka Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?): what makes someone human?

vintage lighter

In this fascinating alternative history, Dick explores authenticity and value with antiquities. One of the characters, Robert Childan ‘discovers that many of his antiques are fakes and becomes paranoid that his entire stock consists of counterfeits. In this case the “counterfeiting” is so good that it calls into question the meaning of “real”. For instance a counterfeit Colt .44 is indistinguishable from a genuine antique by all except an expert.’ (description from Wikipedia)

And elsewhere, perhaps more directly, Dick comments on this theme:

“This whole damn historicity business is nonsense… I’ll prove it.” Getting up, he hurried into his study, returned at once with two cigarette lighters which he set down on the coffee table. “Look at these. Look the same, don’t they? Well listen. On has historicity in it.” He grinned at her. “Pick them up. Go ahead. One’s worth, oh, maybe forty or fifty thousand dollars on the collectors’ market.”
the girl gingerly picked up the two lighters and examined them.
“Don’t you feel it?” he kidded her. “The historicity?”
She said, “What is ‘historicity’?”
“When a thing has history in it. Listen. One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn’t. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing. Can you feel it?” He nudged her. “You can’t. You can’t tell which is which. There’s no ‘mystical plasmic presence,’ no ‘aura’ around it.”
“Gee,” the girl said, awed. “Is that really true? That he had one of these on him that day?”
“Sure. And I know which it is. You see my point. It’s all a big racket; they’re playing it on themselves. I mean, a gun goes through a famous battle, like Meusse-Argonne, and it’s the same as if it hadn’t, unless you know. It’s in here.” He tapped his head. “In the mind, not the gun…”
“...I don’t believe either of those two lighters belonged to franklin Roosevelt,” the girl said.
Wyndham-Matson giggled. “That’s my point!”

And my point is…?
So, what makes something valuable? Is it reality or perception? And what can this teach us about product / service / experience design?

In my User Experience Hierarchy of Needs model, ‘meaning’ is the highest level. But I’m quick to caution that meaning is personal and subjective— we can design for meaning, but we can’t manufacture meaning. Neither can we manufacture experiences.

But can we design for experiences? If we rise above the obvious and and focus on ‘experiences’, how much better could our design and business decisions be? Businesses talk a lot about customer focus, but most have little more than a superficial understanding of what customers really want, need, or desire. At best, most companies give customers exactly what they ask for, which creates a whole different set of problems.

It’s this kind of thinking— ‘what is the experience we want to provide?’— that produces something like the iPod. The ‘experience’ being sold is one of simplicity, elegance, belonging, safety, cleanliness… Yes, I said cleanliness. To provide an ‘easy’ experience required more than making a better mp3 player. Apple had to create an entire ecosystem— not only the iPod, but also iTunes and the iTunes store which aligned the record companies and has made Apple the 3rd largest reseller of music, behind Best Buy and Amazon (This ‘business design’ is something I’ll be speaking about further at the upcoming Design Thinking 2007 event.— more on that soon).

So, why do people use/purchase/recommend your product or service? If you scratch the surface of what you’re working on, you’ll find some interesting motivations floating below the surface. It is precisely these common needs or motivations that we should be designing from and for. It’s this level of understanding that will draw people to the ‘thing’ you are selling—whether they’re aware of it or not.

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Monday July 9, 2007 / 1 Comments

7 User Experience Lessons We Can Learn from the iPhone

Given all the iPhone mania, I thought I might share this little presentation:

Context: Back in January, a week or so after the initial iPhone announcement, I was working on a presentation to introduce the ‘user experience’ group to our development team. As I started reading reading this Time magazine article, I was struck by just how perfect a case study the iPhone is for explaining the role of a user experience group. This formed the basis for my presentation, in which I cite ’7 Lessons About User Experience’ based on comments that article made regarding the (development of) the iPhone.

I’m sure I could add more UX lessons regarding hype, delays, design tradeoffs, and teasing people with ‘new’ features. But I’ll leave this presentation ‘as is’.

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Monday June 18, 2007 / 1 Comments

On Frameworks, Experience Modeling, Systems Thinking, and So On…

In preparation for several research projects, I’ve been digging up what I can around experience modeling, a practice pioneered by E-Labs during the mid to late 90s. Experience Modeling (or Xmod as it was later called at Sapient) can be used to distill and visually communicate key experiential elements gathered from ethnographic observations. Something like this:


This model shows how one type of user evolves from viewing a cellular phone as a single-function appliance to experiencing it as an essential life tool.

Rick Robinson (CoFounder of E-Labs) discusses these as “models of thought” which become “things to think with”. While reading some presentation notes from 2003, I encountered a curious thought in which Rick seems to have stated:

The model doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be right.

I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant until I read another interview with him, in which he recounts the development of the now famous stairwell model of DNA:

Now think about how profound the changes in Western medicine, science, biology, have been, not to mention how much money has been made from this thing that was clamped together out of old chemistry clamps and sticks and balls in a stairwell behind their offices. Their genius was to represent not the precise detail, but the underlying structure of how protein molecules combine to create a DNA sequence. That notion of a model was something that was both a model of the underlying structure and a model for how people could think about what’s going on in genetic material.

Robinson goes on to quote Jacob Getzels, saying:

Good theory gives you something to think about, a but a great theory gives you something to think with.

This makes wonderful sense. As I’ve been preparing for some large-scale research efforts, my priorities are focusing on aligning the various diverse and competing interests. Key to this effort is a proper framework or model by which we can structure our conversations.

Not Just Experience Models…
Along similar lines, Gene Smith and Michael Milan presented at the IA Summit on the topic of Systems Thinking, Rich Mapping and Soft Systems Methodology, describing a

holistic problem solving framework that can be used to design and model interactions between organizations, people, environments, products and services.

Where experience modeling is rooted in a person’s total experience (across products and environments), Systems Thinking proposes a model (CATWHOE) for understanding the broader context in which a solution is developed. This includes all factors affecting a system- including such things as organizational, relational, or political concerns well outside of any actual product design and development. This would be quite useful for understanding how to push a good idea throughout an organization, preparing (upfront!) for possible resistance, or understanding why a good idea might never have made (or make) it out the door.

Two different models with similar goals—understanding and insight around the real problem to be solved. I particularly like how Gene and Michael described why they like Systems Thinking:

  • Illuminates the structures behind the structure
  • Helps to engage us in thinking about problem solving beyond just “requirements”
  • Helps us understand the context(s) in which we are delivering the appropriate IA to the client

This stuff is gold. As I’ve matured professionally, my concerns are broadening, with less day to day focus on products (thought I still have much to say on that subject!) and more focus around the business and technology context in which we are designing—which is interesting in a different sort of way. While I have nearly a decade of experience with Design, in one form or another, I don’t have that same deep expertise in finance, strategy, technology, or other topic areas that would certainly come in handy! Which leads to my next topic…

Shared Problem Framing
Jess McMullin (also at the IA Summit) discussed a related theme in his presentation Project Touchstones. There exists a tendency to create deliverables that define solutions as opposed to creating deliverables that define problems— together. Jess made this point quite effectively, before presenting six ways to work together with clients (or other departments) to create a shared definition of the problem to be solved. One of his slides references Arias and Fischer (2000) who write,

Fundamental challenges facing communities of interest are found in building a shared understanding of the task at hand

Hmm… A shared understanding. Sounds like problem framing. Sounds like a shared model. Or A shared definition of the problem. Or an experience framework. Or a shared vision of the ‘future state’. Or…

The common theme here is eerily similar and not at all surprising: let’s come together to frame the real problem to solved. And models seem to be a good way to do just that.

The trick of course is to get the model right.

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Monday November 6, 2006 / 5 Comments

Creating Pleasurable Interfaces: Getting from Tasks to Experiences

I’m pleased to announce that I will be presenting at Refresh Dallas and the Refresh06 conference (in Florida).

Here’s the pitch:

Creating Pleasurable Interfaces: Getting from Tasks to Experiences

Usable interfaces are not enough. When everything looks good and works well, the applications that stand out are the ones that satisfy unmet – and often unarticulated – needs. But how do you design workable interfaces that also account for intangible things like emotions?

We will look at new skills needed to create desirable experiences, explaining why a task-based approach to design is no longer enough.

To get a sense of where things are headed, this session surveys the evolution of interface design, with comparisons to product and environmental design. Learn what’s needed to incorporate desirability and emotions into modern interfaces, and why an engaging experience might be more satisfying than one that is easy.

If you’re in Dallas or Florida, hopefully you can make it. I’m pretty excited to be speaking on the one year anniversary of Refresh Dallas. And the Refresh 06 conference promises to be pretty exciting, with a great lineup of speakers. If you can make it, please say hi! Otherwise, I’ll be posting notes and such in the coming weeks.

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Sunday November 5, 2006

Designing for More Than Tasks


I haven’t forgotten about that little pyramid I posted a few weeks ago far too long ago. More soon. I promise. In the meanwhile, check out these two visuals I recently came across:

Kano Modeling
This is a nice model for communicating the value of emotions – or pleasure – in product design. I came across this model inside a great presentation by George Olsen:

The presentation discusses thinking about UX as a conversation (very large pdf, very much worth downloading)

Second, this graphic from David Armano. I think we focus entirely too much on tasks, forgetting that many people aren’t so focused and may just be looking to explore, or be entertained.

Also, check out David’s blog. He’s doing a great job promoting the conversation around emotions and interaction design.

Obviously, there is a theme forming here… taking design to the next level by focusing on less tangible things such as emotions, pleasure, meaning etc. To that end, I’m pleased to announce that I will be presenting at refresh dallas and the Refresh06 conference (in Florida) on the topic of ‘Designing Pleasurable Interfaces’. More tomorrow…

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Sunday September 10, 2006 / 3 Comments

A User Experience Hierarchy of Needs

A sneak peek at something I’m working on. More in a couple of weeks…

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Tuesday May 23, 2006

Microsoft vs Scenario-Based Design?

In a recent Business2.0 interview with Ray Ozzie from Microsoft, the question was is asked. “What’s different at Microsoft?”

“They see things from more of a platform-and-capabilities perspective, sometimes to a fault. At the opposite end of the spectrum, like Apple with the iPod, that’s a scenario-based design. They start with the user experience of listening to music and aim for the minimum necessary to accomplish that experience. Microsoft’s culture is “Build it, and they will come.” There are still a lot of people there who build technology that’s very capable, but it isn’t packaged in such a way that people see the value of it.”

Like the Contractor and Architect post over at Engadget, I enjoy comparisons highlighting the different business philosophies at work inside these major companies.

What’s interesting is the last line—which seems to place blame on people for not being able to see the value in bloated software. That and the bit about aiming “for the minimum necessary.” This is true of many Web 2.0 companies, but not necessarily true of Apple. Apple seems to anticipate what I need, but doesn’t shove it in my face when I don’t need it.

Understanding a bit about where Ray Ozzie is coming from, I’m sure I’m mincing words. And he does go on to mention the UI redesign of Office 12.

I personally have no problem with feature laden products. I do have a problem with feature laden products that are notoriously difficult to use. And consequently just don’t work for people. Which is better? Software that does just what you need in an easy manner, or software that tries to anticipate everything you could ever want it to do, and in the process makes accomplishing even the simplest of tasks difficult? It’s a classic Engineering (feature-focused) versus Design (experience-focused) argument.

Have your cake and eat it too!
I personally am looking forward to the group (from either camp) that packs in all the features without resulting in a more complicated interface.

Microsoft is coming from the bloated feature camp, and is now streamlining the user interface. Look at the redesign of Microsoft Office 12

“We set about rethinking the UI from the user’s perspective, which is ‘results-oriented,’ rather than from the developer’s perspective, which tends to be ‘feature-oriented’ or ‘command-oriented’ – thereby enabling people to focus on what they want to do rather than on how they do it.” (What? You haven’t watched the video? )

Most Web2.0 companies are starting from the ground up (or user experience backwards) with a clean slate. The challenge for these companies will be adding features (that are needed!) while preserving their most valuable asset – a simple UI.

Either way, this calls for some seriously skilled interface design. I have some ideas around how this will be pulled off, but that’s a topic for another day…

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Tuesday April 4, 2006

Notable Quotes from SXSW and the Information Architecture Summit

from SXSW 2006:

“It’s not about the productor tool, it’s about what people DO with the tools…”

and stated a little bit differently…

“It’s not about the tools, it’s about what the tool allows you to do.”
-Kathy Sierra

“Brains care about conversational language.”
-Kathy Sierra

“How do people think? Technology should map onto that.”
-Rashmi Sinha

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
-Herbert Simon

“User research is the thing from which you innovate—not the thing you create to.”
-Jeff Veen

“He who can define the problem can define the solution.”

from the IA Summit:

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
-John Zapolski

“I cannot understand, nor do I want to understand! I want to believe!”
-Michel Foucault

“The MFA is the new MBA.”
-Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind

“Business Education does not prepare leaders for dealing with uncertainty.”
-Patrick Whitney, Institute of Design, IIT

“We need a broad generalist to successfully run large, complex organizations.”
-Richard Kovarevich, CEO Wells Fargo & Co

“Businesses that are fundamentally successful empower people to do things.”
-Scott Hirsh

“We make our buildings, and thereafter they make us.”
-Winston Churchill

“Strategy balances contradictory forces.”
-Victor Lombardi

“Designers are the engine of organic growth.”
-Victor Lombardi, discussing good financial growth

“I’m technology agnostic until the technology interferes with my designs.”
-Chris Farnum

“We’ve organized ideas based on how we organize things.”
-David Weinberger, commenting on taxonomies in the virtual space

“Any question you ask of the web (systems) is going to reveal cracks in many other areas.”
-James Melzer, discussing Enterprise Information Architecture

“Content has not changed. But the message has changed based on form.”
-Trevor Van Gorp, commenting on submissive vs dominant designs in interaction design

“The interface needs to mirror the user to a large extent.”
-Trevor Van Gorp

“People need information in their real life, and the web is not real life.”
-Thomas Vander Wal

“What action follows information use?”
-Thomas Vander Wal

“Any successful console game now allows a user to jump right in and start using it, and teaches along the way.”
-???, commenting on how user interfaces might work in the near future

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Wednesday February 22, 2006 / 8 Comments

Classifying Experiences

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the 2006 IA Summit in Vancouver Canada. While it’s not a formal lecture style presentation (maybe next year?), I’m very grateful to have been asked to convert my proposal into a poster presentation (you can view the 2005 presentations here). In hindsight, my model is certainly more suited to this format. And, I’ll have a chance to get feedback from some of the really smart people in the IA community.

So, the topic?

“Sorting, Classifying, and Labeling Experiences”

First, some background that led to this…

From ‘user experiences’ to ‘The Experience Economy’ to ‘designing for experiences,” not to mention “brand experiences,” “customer experience management,” and “experiential marketing”— experiences are definitely the topic du jour. But with so many different perspectives, each with substantial merit, I found myself asking what creates a great experience…?

For example:

  • Is an experience defined solely by how easily one accomplishes a task (as with Google or Craig’s List)? Is all else just nonsense?
  • What about the “entertainment experience” that Pine and Gilmore describe, when they say we’ve moved beyond a services economy into a new experience economy?
  • Packaging—is it or isn’t it part of the experience Is it even possible to separate the ‘packaging’ from the product when evaluating a person’s satisfaction with a given thing.
  • And what of our backgrounds and perceptions. We can have a great product that suffers due to personal issues, such as buyer’s remorse. Or conversely, a merely ‘good’ product where people tolerate faults because of cognitive “confirmation bias”. Or even great products that are generally ill-received due to unfavorable branding.

Intent on resolving these various perspectives, I began exploring how it is that these different elements work together to complement each other. The resulting framework structures all the elements that contribute to a good (or bad!) experience, and provides a context for the various activities (both internal and external to an organization) that play a role in defining a person’s perception of a product or service.

Check it out! Let me know what you think:

Sorting, Classifying, and Labeling Experiences poster (pdf, 3 megs)

One caveat: This IS a poster. A very large poster. So while it is viewable on a monitor, it won’t exactly print very well.

UPDATE: As promised, here is the much smaller, printable version of the ‘Classifying Experiences’ model:

Sorting, Classifying, and Labeling Experiences letter sized (pdf, 450k)

Unlike the poster, this version builds narratively offering a more detailed explanation of the model.

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“Engineering, medicine, business, architecture and painting are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent — not with how things are but with how they might be — in short, with design.”
— Herbert Simon