Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Experience Partners: Giving Center Stage to Customer Delight

Expanding on the word "user" ...

"Today, the design industry is at the threshold of a new epoch—a point of theoretically limitlessness potential for expansion. We must decide just how, going forward, we will relate to the people who use our designs—as people who are “busy and eager to get on with it” yet “alert and caring” or, much less constructively, as people who are merely “simple-minded and stupid.” Therefore, I want to propose the concept of experience partners as a whole new way of thinking about our customers as partners in holistic product experiences. We need new terminology to describe this concept, because the term users limits us to old ways of thinking about the world we live in and the products we develop. The term experience partners reflects an emerging paradigm shift from a focus on product features to instead conceptualizing holistic product experiences and embodies our best understanding of how to design products that create delight and become integral, harmonious parts of people’s lives.

“We can’t accept things as they are, as long as we think that things should be different. Tell us how not to believe what we think, and then maybe we’ll be able to hear.”—Stephen Mitchell

Almost two decades after the release of Don Norman’s landmark book Psychology of Everyday Things, I still find many designers are simply unwilling or unable to understand that the way they designed a product made it difficult for people to use it. Typical reactions of designers and product managers to usability problems involve some variation of:

* “Test users are stupid.”
* “Real users don’t mind complex designs.”
* “Some people are too stupid to serve.”

Predictably, this kind of thinking universally produces products that are confusing, hard to use, and are constant sources of frustration and wasted time. Edward Tufte has spoken eloquently about the need for clarity and simplicity.

“Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite of simple-mindedness. ... The operating moral premise of information design should be that our readers are alert and caring; they may be busy, eager to get on with it, but they are not stupid.”—Edward Tufte

Contrasting the Concepts of Users and Experience Partners

The concept of experience partners does not refer to a new human/computer interaction (HCI) methodology. Rather, it is a new way of thinking about our customers—as partners sharing an experience within a global community. We need new terminology to achieve this change in perspectives, because the term users:

* implies convenience for computers comes before convenience for people
* reflects a mindset that blames a person using a product for errors
* implies busy work
* causes featuritis
* carries a lot of baggage that traditional HCI techniques cannot overcome
* leads to sloppy design thinking
* does not reflect the emerging paradigm of a human-to-human digital community"    (Continued via UXmatters, Greg Nudelman)    [Usability Resources]

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