Design is a ubiquitous discipline spanning innumerable domains and specialities. Within digital disciplines, user experience design is probably the most comprehensive designation, minimally encompassing user research, interface design, interaction design, visual design, and product design. Regardless of speciality, designers practice user experience design when designs are motivated by how users feel, think about, and respond to the design.
While by name it seems as if user experience designers should be skilled in designing experiences, it actually is a misnomer. No one can control how another fully experiences something, because everyone responds differently to identical stimuli. One person may laugh during a scene in a movie, which may be the emotional intent of the filmmaker, while another cries because the scene conjures a sorrowful memory. What is experienced is completely unique and subjective to individuals, and it is impossible to align all these individual experiences with a singular intended experience.
An experience can’t be imposed upon someone, as if forcing a reader to flawlessly memorize a novel, but it can be shared. A shared experience, in this way, happens when a reader consumes the words of an author in the way it is meant to be read. The intent of the author is to share a story, and the form of the story as a physical book affords to be intimately read. The reader experiences the story only when the reader honestly and actively engages with it.
For countless generations, humans have purposed oral and written communication in the form of storytelling to share experiences with one another. Short of science fiction, a dream cannot cross the barrier of the dreamer’s mind. However, a dream can be told, a dream can be listened to, and a dream can be relived.
Designers curate and tell stories of encounters with the digital world. They craft interactions, interfaces, and systems that shape the story between a person and a product or service. They ask questions like:
- What stories do users tell about using the product or service?
- What stories should users tell about using the product or service?
Designers understand what is the current story. They envision what should be the story. They create the means for a person to experience the new story.
The current story is unearthed through user research. Methods of various flavors are meant to discern what often is incapable of being articulated, due to the subject being unable to properly express oneself or simply not being aware of oneself. These investigations are synthesized into insights, to understand how and why the current story came to be.
Visions of how the story should change spawn from researched insights and germinate through concept exploration. Selective visions evolve or are abandoned as prototypes of assorted fidelities and compositions are challenged.
The chosen vision is manifested and given form through development efforts. At maturity, it is introduced into the world. The birthed design can be experienced, and that experience can be shared through storytelling.
Are users telling the stories you want them to tell?
Originally published at bash.am on April 6, 2015.