My 2 Cents on User Experiences

Regularly I attend product meetings dealing with planning, priorities and projects to be included in the next releases. It's always an interesting and challenging balancing act between deliverables and available capacity. Customer value, market opportunity, return on investment and costs are usually recurring topics. Today I was also involved in one of these meetings and we quite extensively spoke about User Experience as customer value. After the meeting I had an interesting meeting with one of the team member on the topic. He challenged me to briefly write down my vision on user experience.

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.

Some examples
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

4 comments

User ability and experience varies from user to user. Until you use a piece of software for a while and get used to it your experience is not very good.
Just look at windows upgrades i was stuck on 98 for years until eventually taking on XP. And although I had played with vista I am sticking with XP as long as I can.

As a former employee of a global e-commerce company i am very familiar with the two concepts of Usability and User Experience.
It is also my sad experience that User Experience too often get washed out by monetary considerations.
It is not unusual for a business to disregard changes that not immediately bring in revenue and User Experience seldom do, at least not in the short run.

with the five sense u left the most imp common sense!

Simple thoughts put in simpler words! Very true. Usability is becoming more of a "basic requirement" from a product/offering, while "user experience" that now translates to the much-hyped-by-now-yet-holds-meaning "experiential" domain, could be perceived as a "predicted requiremnet". That which marketeers/organizations will be able to lay their hands on, only when tehy preempt the consumer's thinking/mind/expectations.

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