Human Experience not User Experince

“Your solution is not my fucking problem”

I can’t recall the author of the quote mentioned above, but it’s recently become my mantra. Too often product designers/managers/developers are looking to solve problems that don’t exist. Specifically, with regards to mobile, I have a growing concern that too many businesses see mobile simply as just another marketing channel. They invent products and product features just to have another way to target their consumer base and audience. This way of thinking is narrow minded and completely misses the point of what my handheld, internet enabled, location aware, time aware, motion sensitive, video camera, computer, media player, magic box is capable of. The devices we carry in our pockets are more than just a “smartphone” and more than just another “marketing channel”.

In many regards our mobile devices are a physical extension and force multiplier of our human abilities. And when you combine this amazing device with “wearables” and other Bluetooth or Internet enabled devices it does even more! It monitors and records my health. It alerts me when there’s a problem with my car engine. Unlocks doors. Finds lost treasure (my keys). My smartphone literally gives me superpowers and improves my human experience. That’s how businesses and marketers need to think about mobile. Why? Ponder this:

Prior to being sold to Google ($3.2 billion) Nest reported that in one year they had sold over one million thermostats at a price of $250/unit. A $250 THERMOSTAT! But a magic thermostat, that improved the lives of its users simply by learning their habits and providing a more human experience for its users.

Food for thought: Why UX Matters

As a mobile app consultant one of the things I struggle with is how to articulate the value of good User Experience (UX). Why should we do it? Why should clients pay for it? Etc. UX is hard to draw a box around. It’s difficult to quantify much less express in terms of ROI. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that good UX is important. But why is it important?

The other day my colleague Jason and I were discussing my frustration with the customer service at the local McDonalds. Jason laughed at me and remarked: “No matter how bad the service gets, you’re still gonna go buy a Quarter Pounder”. Unfortunately, Jason’s right. I do love a Quarter Pounder w/Cheese. But what if there was another McDonald’s that was equidistant (or even further out) from our office with better service? Wouldn’t I go there instead? The answer is absolutely yes! Buy why?

If all I really care about is the Quarter Pounder w/Cheese, then why would my experience matter? To quote my 5-year-old nephew: “Because it does!”


Ponder this: How much would you pay for a great meal? How much more would you pay for a great experience?

We all want and deeply desire a good UX…in everything. Whether you’re purchasing a happy meal, an app, or a service, good UX is part of what we’re paying for.

In product development terms, the UX is part of what people are buying from you (even if your app or mobile site is free). No matter how compelling the vision, no matter how many great features you’ve built into the app, poor UX will send the user packing down the road — probably to your closest competitor.

So here’s my advice. Spend the time (and money) on the UX design of your apps. Think critically about how the UI and features will impact the UX of your users. I promise it will be well worth the effort and yield long-lasting returns.

Now if anyone needs me, I’m really in the mood for McDonalds!

Buttons are a hack (revisited)

The recent hype surrounding the re-design of iOS has gotten me thinking a lot about the current state of UI/UX/HIC (give it a name) and its direction in the future.

For starters, let me quickly remind all the trolls out there that when Mac OS X was released, many (if not most) of the designers hated it. The iPad, when it was initially released, was resolutely bashed by most as “an oversized iPod”. Time and and ultimately, the market, will determine whether iOS7 was a success. Let’s just leave it at that.

Back To The Future

Looking at the progression from iOS6 to iOS7 I can’t help but think back to a great presentation given by Josh Clark two years ago:

Buttons are a Hack: The New Rules of Designing for Touch

It’s a fairly lengthy presentation but the two key points that stuck out in my mind were:

Touch interactions will help us sweep away buttons and a lot of existing interface chrome by moving us closer to the content and away from GUI abstractions.

User interfaces are an illusion. But with touch interfaces we can cut through the illusion and let people interact directly with content.

If you agree with these points, and Clark’s motif in general, then you would have to agree that iOS7 is a step forward and not a step backwards. There are certainly a number of things that could have been done better, but in my opinion I think Jonny Ive is moving us in the right direction.

Please don’t misunderstand me, there are problems with the new design of iOS. For example, the new concept of a “borderless” button and using color to indicate action is somewhat ambiguous – in my opinion. In a world where buttons have no borders, the cognitive load is increased by virtue of the fact that a user cannot reasonably determine all the touch targets on a screen simply by looking at them. For example

Take this QUIZ

If you had to think about your answer, there’s already a problem. So there are issues, but isn’t that the gap designers and developers are supposed to fill for our end users? Cheers!