Simplicity, Clarity, & Beauty
I create interactive experiences for web sites, web applications and mobile devices. Simplicity, clarity and beauty through discovery, design and data is the foundation of my personal design philosophy and practice. We are complex beings with intricate lives. Working to understand and unravel these intricacies enables me to create meaningful designs. And while not all complexities can be answered with simple designs, all designs have the potential to provide clarity and enrich people’s lives in a beautiful way.
Dimensions Of A User’s Experience
Human experience is unpredictable, chaotic, meaningful and always very personal. And while our experiences are our own, the surface dimensions of our experiences are universal. Figure 1 shows a flattened view of 14 different surface dimensions (listed in no particular order), namely the structures, processes, and characteristics that comprise a user’s experience.
Keep in mind this is a conceptual model in the early stages of development and is not yet fully realized. Maybe it's got some validity to it, maybe not. Maybe I'm just pretentious and full of crap. However, the concept is a little intriguing when you look at it and start to consider the richness of any given user’s experience.
If we were able to take a snapshot of human experience, if we were able to slow it down enough to crystallize it, it might look something like the concept pictured in Figures 2a and 2b. Both of these examples show the intersection and interconnectedness of the 14 surface dimensions from Figure 1, folded together to form a solidified or crystallized view.
Consider the surface dimensions that construct the crystallization...
Our cumulative experiences, the ones we remember and carry with us, are intricate and dynamic. These are the experiences that are meaningful, that are truly relational. The meaning of our experiences comes from the different "qualities" of life we encounter, the qualities we both enjoy and suffer. We experience these qualities in a holistic, emotional gestalt, and then we immediately start separating, dividing, compartmentalizing. We size up these qualities, judging them, defining them in relation to ourselves, to whom we perceive ourselves to be, to the experiences we have had before. Some of our experiences challenge our beliefs and change our perception, thus changing our reality.
The medium with which the qualities of life are transmitted may in many cases be grounded in a specific cultural and linguistic context that shapes the overall relational value of our experience, or the qualities may be more universal in nature, in which case their relational value might be heightened. What's really fascinating is that we are actually feeling within our body as we process the meaning of our experiences.
I had the fortunate opportunity to see Mark Johnson, Knight Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Oregon, speak at the 7th International Design and Emotion Conference. One of the most profound things I heard him say during the conference was, "a design is an affordance for the enactment of a meaningful experience." As a designer this is both an inspiring and frightening reality.
Regardless of the validity of this model or its importance, if nothing else remains when you boil it all down, a user's experience is nothing to be taken lightly. It has the potential to be a very ornate and spectacular phenomenon or it has the potential to really, really suck. For all you designers AND stakeholders out there...don’t screw it up!
People, Products, & Practitioners
User Experience Design is a term of convenience. For me, it is a way to encapsulate the disciplines and methodologies associated with Human-Computer Interaction, Human-Factors Engineering and User-Centered Design. There really is no such thing as a "User." User is a term utilized as a means to objectify people for the purpose of research and design. In actuality, there are only people and the experiences people have when interacting with technology.
The reality of User Experience Design is: People, Products and Practitioners. It's not just about what technology can do; it's about what people can do. It's about placing people at the center of a design process. It's about practitioners uniting together to bring technology and human need into harmony by creating compelling products. User Experience Design is not just a collaborative process, it's a collaborative understanding of the human condition.
User Experience Design should embody the integrative and innovative spirit of combining science with art and engineering with aesthetics. If we want to have a true technological renaissance, we need to support the things that enrich people's lives, accommodate diversity and push the boundaries of product experiences. In order to accomplish this, we need to unify our diverse disciplines into a community of practitioners that share the common goal of designing for the needs of humanity.