In our profession, we talk about creating user experiences. The truth is, we are creating experiences for people. Likewise, it's not really interaction design, it's designing for interaction. And finally, as noted above, we're not designing for users, we're designing for people.
The way we talk about our profession matters; not only does it shape external perceptions, it keeps us pointed in the right direction.
A tired debate topic that refuses to die: should designers and UX people be able to code?
The other day the question popped up (again) in my Quora feed, and by the time I got there, some excellent responses had already been posted. I felt the need to add something because, well, that's just how I roll. But instead of re-hashing the same points, I thought I'd take a different approach.
Here's my response:
"For years, good print designers understood the mechanics of the printing process, and in particular how to create art that would yield the best results. They understood the vagaries of different types of printing presses, the properties of various inks, how to suggest paper stocks and coatings, and when to print offset vs. digital. But very few if any print designers could actually operate a printing press the way a highly skilled, experienced printing press technician could.
"I think the same is true today: it's important to understand the technical underpinnings of the things we design so that we don't go down rabbit holes. It's important to be versed in the technology so that we can take full advantage of the medium. Maybe it's even useful or important to be able to throw together some lines of code just so we know what it's like. But I disagree with the suggestion that being a designer means one should should also be a programmer."
So, was it accurate? Let's find out.
I visited the Target / Ligthwave Social Space where I was given an iPad and asked to answer questions about myself. When I was done, an elastic band was placed on my wrist, and a thin metal biometric device was slipped underneath the band, its cool surface pressed against my skin.
I stepped into a small booth where a video began playing quick-cut vignettes, each apparently intended to evoke an emotional response, each a condensed tableau of loss, joy, despair, fear, adventure, hope, frustration, etc.
After a couple minutes, the video ended, I left the booth and the biometric device and band were removed. I was directed to a large screen where a beautiful, intricate graphic was forming...my biometric response chart!
Who I am vs. how I see myself:
The chart above shows how my self perceptions measure up against my biometric responses to the video stimuli.
Three of the Target staff gathered around the display and one of them said, "Wow. You know yourself better than almost anyone we've done today." I asked what she meant and she said, "Most people tend to over- or underestimate various aspects of their personality, but according to this, you're pretty spot on."
Specifically, she explained, I ranked myself high in the areas of compassion and sensitivity, lower in some other areas, and those answers mapped very closely to my reactions during the biometric test. She had one caveat: "You're actually more caring than you think." Well, that's okay, right?
Always the skeptic, I said, "I bet you tell everyone they're accurate."
"No, you can see for yourself." She pulled up various charts created that day, each showing fairly inconsistent — if beautiful — mappings. "Generally people tend to overestimate themselves in most areas," she explained.
I like to think of myself as a no-BS kind of person. Morever, I think being honest with myself is paramount; what's the point of self-deception anyway? So this little test was a nice confirmation.
Nonetheless, I remain skeptical: it was such a simplistic test and biometric readings are quite fallible. But it was fun to do, and now I have a beautiful graphic to hang near my desk.
In this excellent Neiman Lab interview, The Economist's deputy editor Tom Standage shares candid opinions about the competition and VC-backed upstarts, as well as thoughts on content localization, video, and The Economist's new Espresso app.
Standage boldly states that The Economist will happily take advertising dollars, but they don't see ad revenue as a sustainable model for the future; he thinks enterprises that are relying solely or mostly on ad revenue are in for a rude awakening. Like many of us, he suggests a new model may emerge, but in the meantime The Economist will continue to focus on its subscriber base. I also love his view that "print is just another device."
As a person focused on user experiences, however, what fascinated me most was this passage about content overload:
"The 'you've got to the end and now you've got permission to go do something else' is something you never get. You can never finish the Internet, you can never finish Twitter, and you can never really finish The New York Times, to be honest. So at its heart is that we have this very high density of information, and the promise we make to the reader is that if you trust us to filter and distill the news, and if you give us an hour and a half of your time — which is roughly how long people spend reading The Economist each week — then we'll tell you what matters in the world and what's going on. And if you only read one thing, we want to be the desert-island magazine. And our readers, that's what they say."
Standage says they're not trying to link everything to something else — presumably to get more ad views. Instead, they're promising their audience a finite, fulfilling, and ultimately definitive content experience. It's a somewhat anachronistic approach — I'm reminded of the days when the morning paper and the evening news were all most people got — and yet I suspect this approach will work for The Economist. There are many people suffering from content burnout (raises own hand), and some of those people have the means and desire to pay for a high-quality if finite news experience.
In a way, then, The Economist is not just offering the promise of high quality journalism, but the reassurance that what they're offering is all you need really need to know. In other words, they're offering peace of mind.
Hat tip to Will True for finding this gem.