Delightful Experiences

Please forgive the stream of consciousness in my writing (and spelling/grammer mistakes for that matter). I am a dyslexic artist with ADD working as a designer.

Henri Matisse -
“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” — Henri Matisse

I love this quote. It tells me that Art, can be designed. Design is the engineering of a product and not just making something visually appealing. Insert lipstick on a pig reference. If that product is a painting and you wish to express something particular, you can engineer that painting to express this through planning and strategy. Bob Ross was a paint engineer.

This is what I think of when people in our field (user experience design) question designing experiences. Yes, this happens and the argument of “can you really design UX” comes up. I recently tweeted about UX being a process but I think I have to update that thought to be, a User’s Experience can be designed through process to insure the outcome to be one of value and delight.

In college I studied fine arts. I was going to be the next Gary Hill meets Bill Viola. I loved the idea of not just putting my artwork in a gallery but turning a gallery into my artwork. Creating a visual and physical environment using video, sound, and sculptural elements to evoke emotion and a feeling of environmental transformation or, “where the fuck am I?”, was what I strived for. Sometimes what I created was as much about the process, as it was about the outcome. In designing the process to effectively project certain thoughts and feelings, I was designing my artwork.

Moving forward 20 years, I am working as a UX Designer and today I have been focusing on answering this question; how do I effectively create a product of value and something that incorporates all the aspects of Peter Morville’s UX Honeycomb to be a valuable product, but also adds an element of delight. Valuable and Delightful are not the same. Valuable does not have to be delightful but delight can add to value.

I recently wrote a post about art and design and I think this post is an extension of this. What makes a product delightful? I think of phrases I have heard like, “That was delightful to use”, or “isn’t this wine delightful?” What is delightful? Is it beautiful? If “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and we consider it to be subjective, then how do we measure Beauty? Can we do this by quantifying qualitative data and asking users if they think the product is beautiful? Can we use facial expressions and translate feedback through observed behavior? Of course we can.

We can, and should, design delightful experiences. We do this through process (ex. validation through testing and research), creativity (ex. visual and interaction design), and prioritization of task completion (ex. Information Architecture, Content Strategy) so we can solve problems and deliver on the expectations of the user, and the goals of business. One of the goals that gets shared between user and business is delight.

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

Many people in the business world today (and I am speaking from my personal experiences) still think of UX or design as a deliverable. Value and Delight are project goals and goals that many times are not mentioned, but always exist in what I do. I see this changing but the core tenet of evangelism through education is still an aspect of my role as a UX Designer and why I have been recently referring to myself as a UX Strategist. I think UX Strategist projects this idea of our role being more than a deliverable and is at the core of the “UI is not UX” discussion.

Oh and there are no such things as Unicorns, Ninjas, Rockstars, and Gurus. We have experts and thought leaders, and education and evangelism should be our end goal. Removal of ego and portrayal of humility drove me into the UX community and drove my pursuit of this role. I am finding more and more that having humility and lack of ego is what leads to empathy and understanding.

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