UX Lessons Learned from Santa Claus

This is a Christmas story recreated from the actual experiences I had spending most of my childhood living in the US. While mostly just a guess, thinking back on it now, I realize that Santa Claus himself may be one the best User Experience Designers there is.

Every year around this time, the town I lived in is decorated throughout with lots of gorgeous Christmas illuminations. The people living around the Elementary School I attended would work together to transform their entire neighborhood into a gorgeous work of art. I’ll never forget the joy of looking at the wonderful decorations each year while in the car with my mother and sister, on our way back from school.

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UXmas Storyboard — (c) Some rights reserved

Each year there would almost certainly be a towering 4-story Christmas tree set in the center of our local shopping mall, and as Christmas Eve drew closer, Santa Claus would make his appearance when the time came.

Interviewing Children

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Once Santa Claus has made his appearance, all the children would line up to sit on Santa’s lap to talk with him as well as take a photo. Children also had to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, so I thought deeply on what I wanted while waiting.

Our turn. As my sister and I approached Santa, he greeted us with a wide smile and a warm hug. As our parents were busy taking all the photos they could get, Santa asked us both a few questions.

What’s your name?
How old are you?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
How was your year?
What new things did you try?
Ok, here’s my last question. What do you want for Christmas?

I remember passionately communicating my desire for a toy popular at the time. Santa laughed and said he’d think about it, and my sister, family, and waved goodbye to Santa as we left.

Christmas Gift Preparations

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Christmas was just a few days away. I couldn't help but count down the days as I day dreamed about what gifts Santa would bring for my sister and I and how I was sure he was getting them ready just that moment.

Creating Taxonomy

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Santa Claus must be extremely busy. After all, he has to give each child in the world a Christmas gift. Since Santa has to handle as many gifts as there are children in the world, I’m positive he keeps organized by tagging each gift uniquely based on inventory so as not to confuse them, probably around this time each year.

Those tags are sure to have each child’s name, age, country, address, and present contents listed on them.

Scenario Planning and Simulation

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Just how did Santa Claus manage to get those Christmas gifts to my sister and me for Christmas? It’s obvious that each house is different from the next, so can he use the same method of getting the Christmas gift inside for each house?

Santa Claus must think of the best ways of getting each gift to each child. He is sure to also run simulations in order to figure this out. My sister and I also wanted to help him out, so we opened the window curtains a little on Christmas Eve to make sure he knew which house this was and could get here without getting lost.

Distributing Christmas Gifts

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Santa is sure to come. But when will he really get here? As we rubbed our sleepy eyes, we waited like good little boys and girls for him to come, so we could say “Thank You”. We worried that he might have gotten lost, and while sharing our anxiety, we eventually both fell asleep.

Surprise on a Day of Christmas

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When I awoke in the morning, I found a Christmas gift next to my pillow. I wonder just when it was put there? He must have known around what time we would fall asleep. Rushing to open the present, I quickly discovered that the present was not what I had been hoping for, but instead cool soccer shoes. I wonder if Santa chose it because he knew it was my dream at the time to become a professional soccer player one day.

I’ll never forget what it felt like to get such an unexpected Christmas gift. Santa chose not to give me what I wanted now, but what I thought I needed for the future. I’m sure he was watching along to my reaction from afar that day.

Santa Claus, the User Experience Designer

While I can only guess, thinking back on it now, I realize that Santa Claus himself may be one the best User Experience Designers there is.

  • Listening to each and every child’s wishes
  • Think deeply about what to give each child
  • Prepare the Christmas gift
  • Make sure it gets safely to its rightful recipient
  • Distribute Christmas gift to right child at right circumstances

All of this should require diligent scenario planning. He also needs to accurately assess each child’s personality to make sure the gift is just right, and even has to learn the child’s lifestyle in order to figure out the best way of getting the present to the perfect spot without waking him or her up.

Couldn't this be considered a practical application of Human Centered Design, or UX (User Experience) Design?

I believe that Santa Claus is truly a master of User Experience Designer, based on how he works from the meeting the children, in scenario design, and all the way up to strategic considerations. While I can’t speak for the industry as a whole, I personally feel that there is much to be learned from the passion and kindness that Santa utilizes in bringing about the happiness and laughter of “children” (“users” in the context of HCD / UX Design). Every UX Designer should be like Santa Claus.

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What kind of gift does he or she prefer? What would meet or exceed his or her expectations? How should it be distributed? What if this gift was your product or service? This UX lessons learned might just be the real Christmas gift Santa gave to me.

To all the children of the world — Merry Christmas.

Any comments or feedback?
Drop me a line on twitter @mariosakata

Mario Kazumichi SAKATA

Product Manager at @PivotalLabs Tokyo. Ex-Medium Japan.

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