Posts tagged “experience design”

New Soap in No Bottles

During a recent hotel stay I came across this familiar tag, hanging in the bathroom.

As hotel guests, we’re empowered to make the decision about whether to reuse our towels or get fresh ones. They’ve framed this as an environmental issue, which it is, but it’s also about customers improving the bottom line for the hotel. So it’s a wisely-framed message; I suspect it works reasonably well (although I wonder about housekeeping staff in this equation; if they are seeking tips then perhaps that’s why I see fresh towels as often as I not).

In the shower itself, I found this dispenser.

Here’s the message in detail

A similar dynamic; if you give up a little something, you save the environment. However, in this case, you don’t have a choice, and more importantly, the packaging has a significant impact upon the experience. That dispenser connotes generic, low-quality shower goo, not the delightful little cleansing treats found in hotels.

This is a design/experience/messaging challenge that they just ceded. The goodness of environmental contribution could be better conveyed (even that blue tag is better looking and more enthusiastically written than the dispenser copy). The dispenser could reward you in the interaction. The quality of ingredients, normally messaged by the packaging, could be explicitly demonstrated (an interesting, if not entirely successful example is Method on Virgin America).

Related: The rooms in Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel have lovely big bottles of shampoo ($25 if you take them) but they lose some of the appeal when you see these bottles used by housekeeping to refill ’em.

Playing Participant: An autoethnography

With our Curating Consumption series Steve and I take time to look through our researcher lens at our lives as consumers. Sometimes we get to play participant and experience the other side of the research conversation. I recently participated in an online focus group for the redesign of a website. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experience in contrast to that of being on the other side of the virtual glass. While the opportunities below were generated from a moderated online context, they also suggest possibilities for designing real time research interactions:

What Was Happening: I logged in and waited for the moderator to start talking. This was a silent discussion. Everyone was typing.

What I Was Thinking:¬†Here I am at my computer, wearing my ear buds, ready to listen and there’s no talking. Oh my God. I’m an extrovert. How can I make it through 90 minutes of silence? How can I get my big wordy thoughts into these little text boxes? This is not what I was expecting.

Insight: No one set appropriate expectations for what ‘online focus group’ meant. I assumed it would be like a focus group with actual verbal communication. As an extrovert I found it difficult to sit quietly for 90 minutes with a virtual room full of people. As a verbal processor I struggled to articulate some of my ideas as typed words with limited character restrictions. This may have felt considerably different had I known going into it what to expect.

Opportunity: Use words wisely. If you call something X but it is different from most Xs, then clearly communicate how it is different so participants have appropriate expectations. Or don’t call it X.

Opportunity: Employ a variety of methods that cater to diverse personalities (i.e. introvert, extrovert) and learning preferences (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic).  Try to avoid using only one mode of interaction, it can feel alienating and disillusioning for participants.

What Was Happening: The moderators introduced themselves and set some guidelines for the session. Our first instruction was to introduce ourselves with a story about our name.

What I Was Thinking: Fun! Our icebreaker is simple! A story about my name: where it came from, what it means, whatever I want to share! Am I allowed to talk to the other participants? I want to comment on that story!

Insight: This was a fun and simple icebreaker with a low barrier to entry (everyone has a name!). It was also appropriate to the context because all I knew of the other participants in the group were their names. We began addressing comments to each other and then the moderator encouraged us to do more of that. We quickly established a rapport and connected to each other through these stories.

Opportunity: Facilitate rapport building between researcher and participants AND among participants. If you have expectations about who should (or shouldn’t) be talking to who, clarify that at the outset (or before beginning).

What Was Happening: We were asked questions by the moderator (her type was in bold and blue) and then all of our responses would come up in a feed below. It was a small window that I was unable to resize or navigate.

What I Was Thinking: This interface is driving me nuts. I am struggling to follow all of the comments. The moderator’s questions get lost upstream when everyone starts answering. When I try to go up to revisit the question, an answer comes in and I lose my place in the thread. I cant’ find the rating scale we are supposed to use. Is 1 high or low? ARGH!

Insight: The researcher often has a clear path through the conversation in mind. Participants don’t necessarily have this big picture view and can feel lost in the forest of questions and answers.

Opportunity: Ensure participants have various tools for keeping up with the flow of the conversation. This may be easier in live/in-person meetings, and especially valuable for virtual or asynchronous interactions.

Opportunity: Provide a map of the journey that enables participants to identify where they are if they feel lost. Let them peek behind the curtain to see what’s ahead. It can be a trust builder if done well, or a spoiler alert if not framed appropriately.

If you want to play with the possibilities of using these opportunities to improve your own practice (I know I am!), you can turn each Opportunity into a question that catalyzes divergent thinking. Simply ask “How might we…” before each Opportunity (e.g., How Might We ensure participants have various tools for keeping up with the flow of the conversation?). Then challenge yourself to generate as many ideas as you can (20 is always a good round number). And if you do, please share! We would love to hear suggestions for how to improve the practice of research by improving the design of the participant experience.


Sometimes a seemingly minor interaction has a big impact.

At Black China Cafe in Santa Cruz, a small rock keeps napkins in place at the coffee station. With a cup of coffee in one hand, getting a napkin means picking up the rock, putting it down somewhere, picking up a napkin, and then putting the rock back in place.

I had just been thinking as I walked to the cafe about how hard it’s become for me to do something simple like walk across a parking lot without simultaneously jumping on my phone and checking my email, Twitter feed, etc.

I like being able to get lots of things done while I’m mobile, but at times I do this even when I don’t need to, and it starts to feel like a compulsion to multitask. Coming out of that context, the focused attention and step-at-a-time-ness of this little rock/napkin moment at the cafe shifted my whole pace of being.

Interaction design has always talked about temporal elements like pacing and pause. In their book, Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction, authors Helen Sharp, Yvonne Rogers, and Jenny Preece present a case study in which software testing showed adding pauses to a particular interaction would benefit users, and discuss some of the engineers’ reaction to this finding:

To make these changes would require adding additional menus and building in pauses in the software. This conflicts with the way engineers write their code: they are extremely reluctant to purposely add additional levels to a menu structure and resist purposely slowing down a system with pauses.

Right now, human/device interactions commonly involve waiting impatiently for our things to do what we’ve asked them to, and faster processing is often a goal. But as technological capability increases and our devices become faster than we are, I wonder if it may become increasingly necessary to also think about purposely slowing down elements of an interaction to create a different user experience – a’la the napkin rock – that is more aligned with “human-speed.”

Learning from Las Vegas: Insights from the Ordinary and the Extraordinary

Update: this event has been cancelled

The IA Summit program is up, including our workshop:

Bill DeRouchey, Dan Saffer, Steve Portigal

22/03/2007 (Thursday). Full day.

How often do several hundred user experience practitioners gather in Las Vegas, a global capital of experience design? The opportunity is priceless. Let’s get out of the hotel and go see it. Let’s go Learn from Las Vegas.

Experience design goes beyond the screen, even beyond physical products. Entire environments are architected and designed to intentionally evoke specific experiences. In Vegas, this intention is amplified; from the slot machines you first see leaving your plane to the lack of coffee makers in your hotel room. Every detail has a purpose. Very little is left to organic chance. This gives us an incredible opportunity to critically examine those design decisions as user experience practitioners rather than tourists.

In this full-day workshop, we will take what we know from the field of user experience and apply it to looking at intentionally designed spaces. We will consider everything. Just how little wayfinding is there? How few steps are required to use a slot machine, and then again, and again? How is money transacted? Why does the inside of Paris simulate outside? How often does the present experience reference a more exotic experience? How are each of our senses being stimulated, influenced, or focused?

But even more importantly, how do people behave in these environments? Can we determine the impact of these decisions on the users? Their actions? Attitudes? Or expectations?

I’m looking forward to this!

Swiping Slot Blocked

The local Macy’s store has modified all their card reading boxes so that the card swiping slot is blocked. That t-shaped blob of plastic along the right side is where the slot used to be.

The software hasn’t changed, however, and while your purchases are being run up you are asked (as always) to swipe the card. I looked for quite a while, feeling stupid, trying to to figure out where the heck to put my card.

There was no place.

They also have not changed their staff training, so there was no mention of what to do or not do with the card.

Eventually, they take the card from you and swipe it themselves, and you return to the device to “sign” the purchase.


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