Creating Dance-Like Product Experience

We are all talking about sexy interactions, so, how about the experience?

You probably have seen this video:

Google’s Project Soli

We are all talking about sexy interactions…

Technology is evolving crazily fast, thanks to which, we have been exploring and experimenting more advanced interactions, from Touch Gestures, Siri, Now and Cortana, Face Recognition, and even Brain Controls, to Pranav Mistry’s SixSense, Google’s Project Soli, Apple’s Eye-Tracking & Visual Control… So many is going on and will be going on…

I am a huge fan of those new and sexy interactions. Using technology to actualize the potential of human body, in a way that makes life easier and more beautiful — it sounds more than sexy. It has always been my dream job —exploring and designing futuristic products, potentially solving urgent and troublesome problems, and making real and great social impact.

We interact, while what we get is the experience not the interactions.

Does technology make people happier? Is technology making us lonely?

I cannot count how many studies and articles coming out these years about the happiness and mental health towards this Internet era. Yes, even we are unhappy and lonely, we cannot blame technology or anything else. While, it leads me to think about the experience more than the interactions that technology can bring to us.

What kind of experience we can get from those sexy interactions? Do they also bring us equally sexy experience?

What kind of experience we really need for self-actualization (the highest of human needs)? How can those sexy interactions help us to achieve it?

…So, how about the experience?

Since software is eating the world and since the bay area is a world of products, since I am a product designer and since we are all talking about user experience…

We are all talking about user experience. We are saying, it should not only be useful and beautiful but also pleasant; we are saying, design for emotion; we are saying, we should craft small details in order to delight users even though they are hard to notice…

From design for tools, to design for human, the evolution.

We human makes tools to meet our needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Products as Tools

At the very beginning, we made tools to help us survive, and make a living — either using the stone to make fire or covering the body with leaves to keep warm. Later on, we made tools to walk faster, cook faster, work faster… and eventually replace human labor. While, even today, we are creating product as tools, like apps, to help us accomplish tasks, and make life more efficient and easier.

Products as Integrated Service

Not only care about the tool itself but put the tool into an ecosystem, to consider the system in a whole when designing products — it is where we started to think about the experience. We even make the service one step further — integrated service — not separate different services, instead, connect them in a way that service human needs more smoothly and efficiently. See Google’s Now On Tap as an example — you don’t have to find the tool by yourself, it will come to you when needed.

Products as Assistants or Friends

Just name a few, and you can get the idea — Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, Facebook’s M, Amazon’s Echo; Magic, Digit, Luka… — which called Conversational Apps

Design is evolving with creating products that help human achieve higher and higher needs. We care more about human than tools, we care more about the whole experience than a single thing; we are digging into not only the macro but the micro-interactions, we are adding more humanity and delight into the products… We are exploring and designing better product experience…

Then, what is the best product experience can be?

When I was trying to describe the best experience I have experienced, a Psychology term coming to my mind —

Let’s meet Peak Experience.

A peak experience is a moment accompanied by a euphoric mental state often achieved by self-actualizing individuals. — wikipedia
Abraham Maslow considers the peak experience to be one of the most important goals of life, as it is an indication of self-actualization. This moment of feeling wholly and completely the true self makes the peak experience an essential component of identity. The aftereffects of the peak experience leave the individual to see himself and the world in a new way. He views himself more positively, he views life as worthwhile and meaningful, and most importantly, he seeks to repeat the experience. The peak experience is an exhibition of Maslow’s emphasis on the quest for positive growth maximizing potential as the true goal of human existence.

It is the best experience I can name, it is the experience that meets the highest human needs — self-actualization.

Finally, let’s dance…

“Are you happy?” “It is so much fun!” “I am so excited, cannot wait!”… I have been dancing 2–3 times per week since March this year, so much happiness while I am dancing, so many smiles shining with sweat on each dancer’s face while we are dancing.

We human is born to dance, it is the nature of dance that minds our body and lifts our spirits, brings us happiness and helps us achieve peak experience.

Dance Class is also a product, it’s neither software nor hardware, but it is a product. From using this product, I cleared up my mind, got rid of negative thoughts and bad feelings, solved hard problems and came up with creative ideas… I am already addicted to it in a good way thankfully.

Creating Dance-Like Product Experience…

Let’s see the characteristics of the dance class, and then think about how we can apply them into creating better product experience.

1. Focus and Fully Commit

Dance requires extreme focus. I am phoneless, and only with my body while dancing. It is hard to live without information nowadays, while, sometimes, I really want to be free from information, instead of being kidnapped by it all the time. Focus, focus, focus, and fully commit to one thing at a time. When I am fully into swinging my body with energetic music, my mind doesn’t have any space for negative thoughts and bad feelings. What’s more, once my mind is much clearer, it has more space for deep thoughts and fresh ideas.

Lesson 1: Let users focus as much as possible.

Probably, it is not or not only “Less is more” or “Keep it as simple as possible”, but “Focus” that should be the primary UX design principle. The key is to prioritize all the information and let users focus on the most importance, especially for those content-heavy and enterprise products. Certainly, users still can access the things when needed.

2. Learning New Things Gradually

The instructor will add new dances gradually, mixing old with new ones each time. As is known, self-confidence can be increased from learning a new skill, same as learning new dances.

It is not always easy. In fact, it is a bit hard since the dance class is designed to be more like dancing together than being taught how to dance step by step. We are learning by dancing, and dancing from learning. The good thing of a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar dances is that it reduces the occurring upset when unfamiliar dances are too challenging for someone to learn.

And, you’ll never be bored :)

Lesson 2: When adding new features…

We do want to give users new things to meet their (new) needs, and users also do like new things. While, balancing between not pushing too much and making products better by adding new features requires a lot of decision-making. A good example here is Instagram.

You cannot solve the problem in one day. A product should focus on a very specific pain point at the beginning. Then, it should be continually improved from the learnings from users and the emerging technology. Step by step, achieve the big mission gradually.

Lesson 3: When educating first-time users…

Please don’t try to teach and give users everything during the onboarding process, with the expectation that users will learn everything from your tutorial which is almost impossible. The fact is that a big number of users choose to skip those good-looking screens.

Show the values and benefits to users at first. Design the onboarding process into something that can inform, attract and engage users as much as possible.

Educate users gradually and in context — knowing when they need, what they need and how much they need etc. The onboarding of Facebook Paper is really amazing.

3. To Connect or Not Connect

I cannot imagine what it feels like if I dance alone (I never did, also because I don’t have that kind of dance room, sigh…). I am sure I still can get much happiness, while probably less than I can get from the dance class. Happiness is infectious, especially when a group of people doing the same activity, experiencing the same experience, and having the same happiness. Also, we feel much safer, more motived, thanks to the feelings of being connected with others.

I dance with a lot of others. However, I don’t know many people’s names. I always come to the dance class alone, but I am always not alone while dancing. Enjoy the freedom and excitement together during the dance time, that’s enough, for us.

The power of connecting human together, while not interrupting private space, enjoying ourselves individually, while still being infected by others’ happiness, is such a magic.

Lesson 4: Adding social feature? Think again.

Honestly speaking, I feel sick seeing a social feature almost every time trying out a new app. There is a time that the social feature is like a default. It seems like the social feature is added without any thoughtful intention.

Seriously, do we really need it everywhere? Does it really benefit everyone? If it does no good to improve the experience or even will possibly do some harm, please, please, please think again. Keep the problem, the user needs and the goals in mind, and make a better decision.

4. Cannot Dance Without Music

Imagine if we are dancing without music… Horrible! Music has so many powers and magics (I probably can write another post about music lol).

I cannot dance without music, even, I cannot live without music.

Lesson 5: Not only design the interfaces, but also the sounds.

Small details can bring big values. Since we already have been digging into and crafting micro-interactions, how about the sounds that being used in the products? Click, drag, move, delete, open, close, increase, decrease, follow, send, search, alert… Is there any possibility to design better sounds that can potentially improve the experience? Yes, I think (we can do nothing for the user with hearing loss, feel sorry for that.).

A great example — the “Like” button of Facebook Messenger

A huge “Like”

When you click and hold on it, it will become larger and larger, along with a very cute and funny sound. Please try it by yourself, it’s fun!

Are you willing to dance with me? Let’s just dance… and, design, for a better life and a more promising future :)