My 2 Cents on User Experiences
First let me tell you that I'm NOT an expert on the topic. I'm an engineer by trade and according to Alan Cooper this immediately disqualifies me from having a vision on user experience. Further my views are related to business software, because that is my field of expertise.
In conversations the terms User Experience and Usability are often used interchanged, however for me they have 2 completely different meanings
1. Usability is for me the technical capabilities that the product can be used in an easy way. Does the product behave the way I expect, is there a logical flow of events etc. It's for me very related to the functionality of the product. Usability improvement are there for often related to reduction of mouse clicks, handy wizards, etc.. that just make it for me easier to do my job.
2. User Experience is for me more of an emotional state. It's about the feeling I get when I use the product, does is make me excited, relaxed, frustrated. What is the overall impression, and that includes unwrapping, first time use, etc. It actually does not have so much to do with the functionality, because I just assume it's there.
1. Why do I prefer the user experience of my Mac over a PC? The sensual touch of the aluminum casing and the soft strokes on the large touch pad when using 2 fingers to gently scroll this document just makes me feel good. The Mac triggers my senses...
2. In rare cases technical usability improvements create real better user experiences. One example is the Google chrome omnibar. Up until a year ago most browsers had 2 input boxes in their header. One was for typing an internet address and the other one for searching. This was not only confusing, but the search box was quite often too small. Merging the two reduced confusion, created a larger search box and just make complete sense. I feel good when I'm using it.
Now back to business software, because there are many user experience related challenges. May be the most important one: who cares, I have to use it from my boss! The key challenge is to create business software that people want and love to use! This can not be done by just improving the usability. This will make the people more efficient, but it won't make them happier. The saved time will be used to surf their favorite websites, that will make them happy!
If I had the solution I would implement it tomorrow, but unfortunately I don't. However I do believe we need to show some more creativity and refocus on the emotional values for our users. I aim to continuously push forward to search for creative solutions that get to the heart of our users.
Image credit: Nicki Dugan