If you are taking User Experience (COMP33512), read this twice.
I was going through some old shared notes about COMP33512 last night. This was the case since one of my friends is currently taking the course. I accidentally found them on Google Drive and realised it was a shared doc with more than a dozen authors. Reading the first line made me want to write a blog post.
My first reaction was to ask access to the author and add an extra note, but I think writing down some thoughts about UX will help those who are currently taking this course. Since my friend has submitted his first assignment last night, I imagine you all have done the first piece of coursework and read ‘Understanding, Scoping and Defining User Experience: A Survey Approach’.
It’s a nice read and the shortest summary is “no one is right about UX, everyone has different opinions, trust your own guts”. I am mentioning this, because what I am about to write is the product of my guts (so don’t even trust me).
That first line on the notes said something that is really close to this:
this course should have been called “the worst user experience” ‘thanks’ to the GoPro recorded lectures in which nothing can be heard but background noise.
I felt a bit sad, disgusted and also frustrated, because whoever wrote that didn’t really get what UX is all about. This keeps happening whenever I talk to other people, even close friends of mine, who should see the difference straight away, but keep making the same mistake over and over again.
If you are slightly thinking that UX is about running A/B tests on millions of users in the Google’s way, well, you are wrong. If you are thinking UX measures the quality of a product or, as in this case, video/audio, you are still wrong.
I was angry because the first lines of some revision notes, shared by a dozens of students, were against the whole definition of UX.
The common mistake we all make is in thinking that:
UX->Quality-> HD Video
or a better click through rate performance (again Google’s way). Although you may think you are referring to Quality, that is still a Quantitative thought.
Using a better material for the cover of the iPhone6 is not Quality, but Quantity.
Why? Because Quality (and also UX) is about emotions, not materials. It doesn’t really matter if the cover is made up by Gold or Wood. The focus is on the User and the emotions that the product evokes in his/her inner state.
When we talk about emotions and inner state, we don’t talk about materials. We don’t talk about the Quality of Video (again this should be the Quantity). We don’t refer to the number of clicks or why a Gold cover is more “water-proof”.
If we want to talk about emotions, we need to talk about how emotions change according to different shapes, materials, and also video qualities. What I am trying to say is that even a HD video could not be the best solution, because this is not strictly correlated to happiness, enjoyment or satisfaction. It might be the case that a worse video quality is a better way to reach those inner states for the users you have.
Let’s try to formulate an example, just to make things clearer.
“We need to distribute a recorded video to 50 people who are between 70-80 years old. 80% of them are almost blind and 100% have hearing issues. The director spends 80% of the budget to improve the video quality and doesn’t focus on the audio.”
Result: no one cares about how good the video is, cause at the end of the day, they can’t watch it, but they can’t even hear it, cause the focus was elsewhere.
Am I justifying how GoPros record a lecture? No, of course. That’s not up to me to decide. What I want to point out is how wrong that comment was in terms of UX.
The focus of UX is not about how good the product is, but how good the emotions that the product evokes are. That’s why it’s called USER EXPERIENCE.
In conclusion, if you want to get a first, just study hard as you have always done and you’ll probably make the same mistake as whoever wrote that message.
If you want to understand what UX is about, read:
- Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance (Pirsig).
- The design of everyday things (Norman).
- Emotional design (Norman).
This is where you’ll find the incredible gap between memorising something (to get a first) and learning. People who truly learn stop caring about their grades (read zen and you’ll also understand this).
Remember, if you can’t open a door, it’s not because you are stupid, but because it was designed by someone who didn’t have a clue of what UX is all about.
ps: if you want to keep the conversation going, add me on Twitter (@edoardomoreni) or Linkedin. I also do some freelancing, so you can hire me.