Wow. I had a sort of epiphany this week. You know, that kind of thing that hits you on the head like someone throwing a raw salmon at your face? Or when you get mesmerized by discovering that someone is renting out “party goats” in Los Angeles for $100/hour because they jump up on your back at parties.
I am really not making that up. It’s on YouTube after all.
Anyway, back to UX Design. I’m falling in love with this field and feel like I’ve found my “thing” as it were because it finally brings together the clarity I have been searching for: tech, people, experiences, and design.
Yes, design is in my blood. I knew it that very moment when I was working at an Architecture and Design firm and instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing (IT), I was joining the design teams and just soaking up the language and daydreaming of how I could design spaces for people that would make their lives better. I get chills thinking about it.
So now with all my background in tech, business, customer success, and yes my secret passionate love of design, I can finally come to roost.
I feel like I’m going to end up writing each day about my journey into UX and the final outcome will be building up a UX Design Agency (anyone interested in discussing that?).
So here’s where my current thinking is and why I feel that UX Design should actually be called User Engagement Design (UE Design).
This is the video that really sparked why I’m feeling the way I do:
Jesse James Garret and Brian Solis got to the point where they discussed something I feel is so very important. User Experience Design is about engagement. It’s not about a specific product or service or app or website. It’s about what happens before, during and after the interactions with these things.
Ultimately this is about human engagement. What happens after they experience the product or service?
- What do they do?
- What do they feel?
- What do they tell others?
Great companies like Apple imagine this engagement and then create the technologies to leverage these experiences. Not the other way around.
And this all comes down to knowing who you are designing for, psychology, experiences, interactions, details, and everything that occurs from A to Z.
The Impact On UX
I feel like what I see when I encounter UX is “an app redesign” or a “wireframe” and those things are probably a part of it but in my mind, I want to focus on the entire experience — the engagement of the user with the company, the product, the app, and what happens after this engagement.
We all encounter things each day: companies, processes, services, products, etc. and in each of those moments we have an experience. Good or bad. We also approach this with our own unique set of human baggage: perceptions, past experiences, expectations, needs, and unfulfilled needs.
The impact of my thinking on “User Engagement Design” means that I will probably spend a lot more time on the entire process than just focusing on an interaction with an app or website. I think of it as a building design. It’s not just the act of getting into AutoCAD and wireframing out the building. It’s the fact that the building serves as an ecosystem of combined experiences from the moment you walk up to it: the shrubbery, the common spaces, the feel, the emotions, the way it works, the way it doesn’t work. etc.
Principles Of Design & User Engagement
So if UX is about the intersection of psychology and technology, then where do the principles of design fit into User Engagement? Well, I think it’s a natural fit. Kind of like those jeans you love so much that always seem to just fit right no matter what you eat.
First of all, we know (as I have just learned) that there are some fundamental design principles:
- Discoverability — is it possible to determine what actions are possible
- Feedback — there is full and continuous information about the results of actions and the current state of the product or service
- Conceptual Model — the design projects all of the information needed to create a good conceptual model of the system
- Affordances — the proper affordances exist to make the desired actions possible
- Signifiers — ensures discoverability and that feedback is well communicated and intelligible
- Mappings — the relationship between controls and their actions follows the principles of good mapping
- Constraints — providing physical, logical, semantic, and cultural constraints guides actions and eases interpretation
All of these design principles exist to support the human experience, which, after all, is what user engagement is all about, albeit on a more meta level.
Psychology & User Engagement
Finally, one last point and I’ll be done for the day. Because UX deals with people, psychology is a critical component. In my theory of User Engagement, I feel it plays an even bigger role.
Here’s a few psychology principles that are known to UX but also play a huge role in User Engagement Design:
- Getting People’s Attention — we know there are certain things that get people’s attention such as our startle response or when a single element is different amongst many things that are the same. User Engagement is critical here because it starts the moment you encounter something that you are going to interact with.
- Mental Processing is mostly Unconscious — People have to feel and have an emotion to take action and despite what we think, it’s not all about logic and rationality.
- Two Types of Thinking — we have to take into consideration that most people are in “system 1 thinking” which is effortless, easy, fast, and uses less strain on our brains. “System 2 thinking” is hard and effortful.
- Brain Chemicals — Our brains release certain chemicals in response to things such as anticipation when dopamine is released.
- Gestalt Principles — these principles deal with users’ visual perceptions of elements in relation to each other.
- Visceral Reactions — our ability to react positively or negatively on first site.
- Color Psychology
- Recognition Patterns
- Scanning Patterns — in relation to how the eyes scan text
- Hick’s Law — the more options users are exposed to, the longer it takes them to make a decision
- Weber’s law of noticeable difference — make changes very carefully and subtle
There are probably more but all of these principles play a role in human experience and how we react and interact. So it’s not just about “experience”, it’s about the engagement because each and every one of these things means that experiences can be engineered. Yes, we can engineer the flow of human engagement.
Lastly, I leave with this. Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook director of product design, did a TED Talk and mentioned two very important things which cemented my thinking about “User Engagement” design:
- Audacity — to believe that the thing you are making is something the entire world wants and needs
- Humility — it’s about the people you are designing for and not about YOU
Audacity and Humility are traits I would associate with User Engagement Design; thus I feel like User Experience Design could potentially morph into User Engagement Design as we begin to step back and take a more macro big-picture view of what the profession truly is doing.