Image of a man looking at a painting at an art museum to illustrate that we do feel and act differently in a place like a museum.

Experience is a Part of Design, Too

In my previous post, I talked about the connection between architects and web designers. Well, I’m no architect but my take on what architects possess that’s so advantageous for Web Design is the way they give consideration to user experience.

Imagine living in a house with stairs whose steps are 20 inches (50 cm) in height each, instead of the standard 7 to 11. Sure, you can still use them to go upstairs or downstairs, but it is considerably more painful and uncomfortable. Your experience living in the house will severely suffer. So here is what I’ve come to believe: in order to design for human beings, we need to understand their fundamental nature beyond their individual idiosyncrasies. In other words, we, as designers, need to understand the metadata of human beings. With that knowledge we can begin to design for a pleasurable user experience.

But wait, aren’t we forgetting the fact that we’re all different? And, how can we know what we like, when most of the time we can’t even articulate as to exactly why we like something? Besides, we humans are emotional beings, and we are so affected by our ephemeral emotions!

Yes, that’s right, idiosyncrasies are, as we all know, an important factor that determines what we like. But that’s not all there is to it. In product design (whether it’s an architecture, website, or chair), there are three categories to evaluate a product in terms of ensuring a user’s positive emotional experience. Gorp and Adams talk in their book, Design for Emotion, and say the best recipe for a good user experience is for the product to be useful, usable, and desirable.

A product is useful if it performs the tasks it was designed for. It’s usable if it’s easy to use and interact with. And it’s desirable if it provides feelings of pleasure and creates attention. So how can we, as designers, try to design for a good user experience? What does it mean for a product to be useful, usable and desirable? As designers, where can we begin when we are faced with an infinite amount of individual differences in taste that are ever changing?

My answer is, when in doubt, start with what we can know objectively. We might not be able to be objective about our subjective reality, but we are capable of being objective about collective human beings. That’s where I want to start in order to I know who I’m designing for. After all, to know specific users, you first need to know what it means to be human beings because we all share the same evolutionary inheritance.

Starting from next week, I’ll be talking about just this topic; our evolutionary inheritance and how that affects us emotionally. If you are interested in seeking more about the inner workings of human-product relationship (or even human-human relationships because they share so much), stay tuned!