UX Design in Every Day Life


My name is Hanshen Wang and I am a second-year student at the University of Michigan. This is my blog for User Experience Design. I have been fascinated by this industry for years. Design is becoming an trending industry not just in the technology companies, but also in financial, medical, and manufacturing industries. The reason behind that is quite simple: our product is evolving.

Centuries ago houses are built because people need shelter to protect themselves from beasts and rain. They were barely houses because those were simply a place to sleep when it is too dark to stay out. As more techniques were developed to build houses and as people’s pursuit of indoor activities started to flourish, more and more houses were built. People began to worry less about the availability of houses, and focused more on the comfort, beauty and functionality of them. That is when architecture and interior design industry surfaced.

The same principle applies to the technology products we use today. As user electronics start to flourish in the early 2000’s, they were mostly designed to do calculations, conduct basic tasks and store small amount of information. As hardware manufacture grew with the increasing market demand of such products, however, number personal computers reached 2 billion today, not to mention the five billion smart phones and the 1.4 billion tablets. More and more user electronic products are becoming available and they were much more entrenched in our lives then they were before. Technology today is not only a tool to conduct basic tasks. People use technology products to learn, entertain, work, compute, engage social issues, communicate, and purchase. The design of technology products become so crucial because it will truly determine if a product can successfully fulfill a need or accomplish a task.

In this blog I will explain why UX is easy to understand, how is it in our daily life and what principles designer should follow. We will dig into some of the most cutting-edge instances of UX Design with the most understandable approach.

In my first blog, I will look into how the design of a medical MRI system can help children to overcome their fear of the machine and cooperate with diagnoses to illustrate the prevalent existence of UX design in our daily life and its broad utilization in multiple industry,

In my second blog, we will transit to the New York City subway and have a look at why they are not user friendly. I will illustrate how the UX design components can be applied to an architectural design, and have a glance at what people have proposed to make it better.

In the third blog, I will introduce you the anticipatory design. You might have no clue what that is, but you will soon realize that it is so prevalent once you read my analysis. We will also critically examine the value as well as risks of anticipatory design with instances noted around the world.

In my fourth blog, we will expand our horizon to technology in human interaction. I will walk you through some of the communication tools we adopt throughout history, and introduce you a new generation of corporation communication platform. We will look at the benefits and drawbacks of product like that, and gain insights into design of communication platforms.

Works cited:

“Tablet Users Worldwide 2013–2020 | Statistic.” Statista. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Iterative process: Satisfaction Improvement through UX Design

I bet many user experience designer encounter the question of “What is UX Design” so many times that they have to tell a long story to explain fully what UX really is. I myself, too, have been trying to explore what UX Design truly is, and for quite a while I have been expecting some elegant instances that can impress people in a second.

UX Design, however, is the complete opposite of being purely elegant. Every elegant design starts small and starts from realizing the pain of users. Designers always pinpoint the problems by observing and interviewing, understand the perceptions and emotions from users’ perspective, come up with something new to meet that need (design), evaluate how the product works with users, and back to observing again. This is the iterative design process of user experience design. It always starts with identifying the user need and establishing the requirements of users.

Dong Dietz improved the medical MRI system with an extraordinarily simple design. The design started with identifying user needs when he saw a little girl walking toward MRI machine with her hands tightly holding her parents’ hands, sniffling and tearing. Her parents were encouraging her over and over, with anesthesiologist being called to inject sedative as the girl was expected not able to stay still in the machine.

One of the core reasons why Dietz succeeded in that design is that he followed the iterative principle, and started from identifying user needs. Here in this case, the major issue that young patients are facing with the MRI scan is that the MRI machine looks appalling from their perspectives, and the overall hospital setting with their concern for the diagnose cause mental burden on the users. Effects of such problem include extra effort for the anesthesiologist to inject sedative and for physicians to coordinate the patients.

To handle this problem, Dietz started observing from the Children’s perspective. As an adult, it can be challenging for him to conceptualize young patients’ vision and emotion. Therefore, he started gaining more observation at a day care center. He interviewed child care experts on what pediatric patients went through. With the information he gathered, he formed a group with local children’s museum, and doctors and staff from two hospitals in GE to identify the user problems and to come up with design prototype named “Adventure Series”. The prototype transformed the MRI machine appearance to an amusement part style pirate ship. Dietz also developed an audio system that encourages young patients to listen closely for the moment that the craft “shifts into hyper-drive” so that the terrifying sound of the machine is incorporated as a part of the “adventure”.

In my opinion, “Adventure Series” scanner is, of course, still evolving, and can be expected to function even better with younger children. What we can absorb from this design journey, though, ties tightly to the design principles we discussed SI110. As Professor Mark points out, the Iterative Design Spiral guides our design process and always evolves itself. Designers harbor the dynamic of approaching users before withdrawing a bit for the design, construct the prototype, and approaching back to users to revise the design. Dietz utilized the resource averrable to him to conduct his iterative process. His ideation was revised, strengthened, and validated by both his observation and his collaboration with experts in different fields as well as the users.

Toward where should we go further from instance like “Adventures Series”? That might be the question that many want to ask. Again, he needs to follow the iterative process, get back to his users, collect data, and move on to design. To accomplish a successful UX Design, it is of course impossible to fulfill every individual’s nuanced requirement with a single solution. In Dietz’s case, his prototype might be appropriate to install in Children’s hospital, but we can still foresee a small proportion of children not resonating with his design. After all, not every one is a huge fan of pirate ship, like me. Dietz might consider the possibility of conducting a more thorough research of cartoon characters and animations to determine the most commonly accepted scenario among children. Yet no doubt, that process will require much more investment.

That is how we define User Experience. It is never easy to summarize such a multidisciplinary existence with one single sentence, but stories and experiences make it much easier to understand. It is always the dynamic among assessing, designing and building.

Works cited:

Kelley, Tom Kelley and David. “Kids Were Terrified of Getting MRIs. Then One Man Figured Out a Better Way.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Newman, Mark. “User Experience V.2.” SI106 Lecture. Ann Arbor. Oct.-Nov. 2016. Lecture.

NYC Subway: What Users Want to Do & Designer Wants Them to Do

The New York subway system is known for the complaint is received. As it has been serving for more than a century. As one of the earliest subway system in the world, the New York subway system has received a tremendous amount of complaints. With the curiosity of the complaints, I visited New York for my fall break and found out that the poor user experience leads to the multiple issues that people have been dissatisfied about. Beyond the most common issues such as extreme heat and dirty condition, I have summarized some of the key aspects of New York subway system that is not user-friendly.

Before we examine the UX Design of the NYC subways system, let us quickly call back utilize the diagram we discussed in the SI110 lecture on Nov 4. We believe that UX Design matters because it is the common ground of “What users want to do” and “What designer want users to do”. With that guidance, it becomes clear what we expect the system to achieve: passengers should be able to take the train they want and arrive at the place they want most effectively; designers want passengers to look on the map when they want to figure out where to go and to get on the right train. That’s all they want. But have they achieve that effectively?

Vagueness and ambiguity of map

This is the factor that triggers most complaints and dissatisfaction. The lines are marked with color, letter, and number. Different color indicates different routes, while same color lines sometimes can go in completely different directions when in certain circumstances such as weekends and festivals.Same colored lines can also have an expressway and normalway, which stops in different stations and run on different schedule.

Many cities around the world have adopted the simplified, horizontal and vertical line only map to demonstrate subway system. New York City has been persisting on the traditional, geographically accident version since 1978, asserted Tommi Molinen in It’s Time to Redesign the New York City Subway Map. The new version proposed makes it easier to accomplish the users’ goal — to transit to the place they want most efficiently. For the passengers who know or not know where they are going, a geographically accurate map does not help them as they want. Instead, it can be confusing and disturbing a lot of times, because passengers will have to look through the map with their finger pointing the line because it is not straight, or they will need to spend quite a while to figure out where the transit station is since the line on the map is not straight. The new design eliminates information that hinders passengers’ conception of the route and clearly outlines the multiple lines that congregate at the same station.

Poor station design

In most modern subway systems, station names are printed in places that are easy to capture. The fonts are typically huge, and the words are always indicative, brief, and apparent. For instance, the Beijing subways system has signs of the train station both on the trackside and on the station side. Thus passengers both getting on and off can have a clear sense of what their current stations are. Although built-in system (electronic screen display, broadcast) can also notify the passengers, station signs are crucial for them to keep track of their location and determine when to get on/off when other channels are disturbed.

As Interaction Design suggests, “Representations of information need to be designed perceptible and recognizable; Text should be legible and distinguishable from the background.” Text that indicates important information should be particularly legible and recognizable. The New York subways system, however, has ceramic tile paved station name on most stations. They are typically on the wall on the other side of the station from the side where your train runs. As a result, when a train stops at the station on the other side, the station name will be blocked. People new to the city will have to use Google Map to locate themselves, despite the poor network connection and absence of GPS underground.

As far as I am concerned, design must put user needs at first. Accuracy, beauty, pleasantness are, granted, important part of a design, but they are not the determinant of the product usability. As designers the most fundamental obligation is to explore and identify the pain points of users and design from there. That is why the subway map tends to be simpler and less accurate, because passengers mostly do not care whether they are truly straight or not. That is way stations need to have a visible, huge sign of the stations even it sometimes interferes with the temperance of the station.

Works cited:

Moilanen, By Tommi, and By Ed Jefferson. “It’s Time to Redesign the New York City Subway Map. Here’s How.” CityMetric. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Adewunmi, Bim. “New York’s Subway Is so Hellish, I’m Homesick for London’s Underground | Bim Adewunmi.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Newman, Mark. “User Experience V.2.” SI106 Lecture. Ann Arbor. Oct.-Nov. 2016. Lecture.

Anticipatory Design: Add to Four of The Design Component

Anticipatory Design may sound unfamiliar with many, while it is a crucial, rising part of the UX Design. In fact, Anticipatory Design is a design principle derived from four UX components, value, usability, adoptability, and desirability. Although anticipatory design cannot be necessarily classified into one of the four components, it adds to each of them — it predicts users’ behavior and make decisions for them. As a result, a successful anticipatory design adds value to the product, makes it easier for user to do what they want, and makes the product easy to start using and pleasant to use.

Let’s look at the examples discussed by Sophie Kleber in How to Get Anticipatory Design Right to better to understand anticipatory design. Spotify understands that users get weary of the song lists at times, so they generate a weekly playlist based on the users’ history. Many users find the new list refreshing, since this function liberates them from looking for new songs themselves. Users can adopt the list as an alternative to the trending charts, because it is much more personalized. In this case, the product’s desirability is improved, and value is raised. Similarly, one of the world’s earliest personal virtual assistant, Microsoft Office’s Clippy, was able to detect some basic user behavior and pop up to offer assistance. For instance, when users are writing email, the Clipper will show up itself and offer help in letter writing. In this case, the usability of the product is improved, as users can always have some tools handy without calling for the service themselves. Virtual Assistance also helps new comers of emails to understand basic commands, and thus improve the adoptability of the product.

With the two instances above, we might start to realize that anticipatory design has been around for so long. It serves as an irreplaceable part of the user experience design. The benefits of anticipatory design is highly relevant to the design principles we discussed in the SI110 lecture on the components of user experience design. In other words, the anticipatory design follows the principles of the fours components, and we construct and evaluate our prototypes with those criteria: Did the design add value to the product? Is it easier to use for everyone? Is it easier to be found and used? Do people like it?

That is why certain designs, even if they are innovative and anticipatory, are not necessarily constructive, because they disobey one of the four components. Kleber examined some anticipatory designs that lead to negative consequences. For example, many mobile phone carriers provide packages that send new iPhone to the users before they know if the users want iPhone or not. In 2014, Uber triggered a serious ethic controversy when the system surged price during the Australia hostage crisis. The anticipatory algorithm that Uber engineers install does not work perfectly when it comes to humanitarian circumstances. In the mobile phone career case, the usability is deducted, because users will find the phone redundant if it always comes with the plan. In Uber case, the value and desirability of the product is deducted, because the design fail to meet people’s expectation of the platform in a special condition.

From my personal perspective, I am convinced that anticipatory design can be applied to various realm to better assist people from their daily life to challenging innovations. Science fictions have been depicting this ideas for decades, indicating that people are willing to learn about and ultimately accept the anticipatory design products. As designers, however, we need to keep alarmed of the side effects and the inhumane factor of the algorithms. After all, the design we conduct is powered by machines and software. Just as Dr. Newman emphasized in the lecture, UX Design for social interaction is hard, because there is a greater need for theory and principles. If we want to avoid tragedy of Uber in Australia, we must update our regulation and protocol faster, so that they can keep up with our constantly evolving technology and draw a clear line between automation and human intervention.

In a nutshell, anticipatory design has been around for decades, and successful anticipatory design contributes to the four components of UX. It is of significance for UX Designers to realize both the potential and the risk of anticipatory design, and to adopt the proper tool and iterative procedure.

Works cited:

Busche, Laura. “What You Need To Know About Anticipatory Design — Smashing Magazine.” Smashing Magazine. N.p., 2016. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Kleber, Sophie. “How to Get Anticipatory Design Right.” HUGEINC. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Newman, Mark. “User Experience V.2.” SI106 Lecture. Ann Arbor. Oct 4. 2016. Lecture.

Newman, Mark. “Social UX V.2.” SI106 Lecture. Ann Arbor. Oct 6. 2016. Lecture.

Communication and UX: A Glance at Modern Communication Tool

As our communication tool continues to advance with the increasingly available technology, individuals and groups start to adopt more efficient communication tools with all different features to fulfill their needs in different circumstances. Our communication between each other has been dramatically shaped by the tools handy to us — in person, telegraph, line phone, pager, wireless phone, email, BBS community, social media, google doc and so on. One thing has never changed is that all forms of communication we created for ourselves differ in their nature more or less.

Differences in modes of communication are the fundamental idea discussed in No more email by Bill Goodwin. He points out that the corporations are leaning to deploy a new generation of communication called unified communication within their teams. He believes that the earlier generation of asynchronous communication is being eliminated by the era since they can be really expensive at times and require unnecessary efforts. But what is unified communication, why does Goodwin insists that it is better, and how is that relevant to User Experience?

Unified Communication (UC) is the integration of corporations’ different communication mode. It is a platform that integrates presence, email, chat, video, voice, directory service, mobility, and data. In other words, users of such platform will no longer need to switch between platforms (e.g. call on their phones while typing on their laptops for email). UC provides a one solution for all, as long as the equipment supports those modes of communication.

Undeniably, UC can be productive in many cases: when a team has members in all different settings, they can still gather together and make progress; when part of the team is offline, the administrator can immediately save the work progress on cloud so that it can be continued when the other part of the team get online.

For my perspective, however, unified communication, byits very nature, is never a perfect alternative to the traditional communication tool we adopt. When we adopt a unified communication, it means that different modes of communication can happen simultaneously, and that can sometimes lead to chaos. Examples include the video we discussed in the lecture in SI110 when a man was trying to make a conference with his team while they kept being disturbed either by technical issue or by personal problems. Unified Communication not only does not solve this problem but also brings more modes of communication, increasing the amount of potential problems. When the platform attempts to cater all the different circumstances of participants, the system cannot transmit some nuanced detail and emotion that traditional communication is capable of.

As we discussed in SI110 on Oct 6th, asynchronous communication has little to no coordination and makes common ground really hard to establish. When UC integrates all the synchronous communications with asynchronous ones, the workflow gets even more disorganized, not to mention the common ground to establish and the nuance of social activity that people normally participate in traditional communications.

In a nutshell, UC does start a revolution of both synchronous and asynchronous communications. We can foresee a significant reduction of effort in participating in a meeting, making reports, and doing a presentation with the assistance of tools like UC. Nonetheless, it is just as important for us to realize the limit of it when it comes to coordination and common ground establishment, and find a perfect balance between the new and conventional ways of communication.

Works cited:

Goodwin, Bill. “No More Email? Why Companies Are Turning to Collaboration Technology.” ComputerWeekly. N.p., Mar. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Newman, Mark. “Social UX V.2.” SI106 Lecture. Ann Arbor. Oct. 06. 2016. Lecture.