Dualities of User Experience

I want to talk about the dualities of user experience, by which I mean various ways in which there’s not just one simple clean answer, but rather multiple things to consider. And so by way of example of what I mean by duality is we can look at these two paintings. So the painting went down to the ocean and painted on the right. You can see it’s a sunny day. It’s a calm, beautiful, inviting ocean. You really feel like taking one of those small boats out, right. And go for a little sail on the other end of the left, you see dark threatening clouds, high dangerous waves, and you feel like they must stay on the shore and you’re not going to take that little boat out in risk of anything. So which of these two paintings is now the true painting of the ocean? And the answer, of course, is that that’s not a reasonable question to ask, because both are true paintings of the ocean. Sometimes the ocean looks so inviting and sunny and calm and sometimes the ocean looks dark and scary and dangerous and high waves both are true. And that’s what I mean by a duality. So to move to another art form, it was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Famous opening line from The Tale of Two Cities. And that applies to you as well. I think maybe some of you have this feeling that, oh, it’s the worst of times when you struggle through something in your project or your company doesn’t want to value you the way we think it should be valued or their various other problems. I would like to say that based on my personal perspective, I think more so. It’s the best of times for you X because relative to my time in the field, which is like thirty six years, honestly, you know, most of you guys don’t even know how bad it was back then, but in the mainframe era.

Right. I mean the interfaces were truly terrible. They respect our intended user experience was not only was actually negative in that commenters thought that we shouldn’t bother with his right to know.

People should be grateful they’re allowed to use our precious computer, was the attitude at the time.

And on the other end of day, we probably had in many ways the best use of the phrase we’ve ever had. This is not to say that they’re perfect. Computers can or should not get better. It’s just that there’s still this historically anyway.

I think more so the best of times. But there’s also that that dark side, it’s the worst of times, quite often in pragmatic situations where you’re trying to achieve something that, you know, would have high return on investment for the company and yet they don’t listen. So we do have those kind of both of those situations being there. But let’s not only think about the doom and gloom, but I think also about honestly, we have come a really long way. And I mean, I feel a much better, but still we have come a long way. So this is maybe the most famous duality, you know, UI, you X and there’s so many, you know, drawing’s like meme style pictures on the Internet already of this. I’m not going to bother you with one more, but it is something that’s very often not discussed. What’s the difference, a distinction between UX, UI and you. Well, both important is really my duality message here. You know, the surface design, how it was on the screen. I mean, that’s super important. It’s not just a matter like it looks good as matter of can people understand the buttons, the menus, the commands? I mean, that is very important. The surface design, on the other hand, is also very important with the deep design, the true total user experience. What are we doing for people right now? Both have to be good. So it does no good to have a really great user interface, even, let’s say, have very high usability. People understand every possible feature on the screen, but yet it’s a user interface to the wrong thing, to something that people don’t want or don’t need. Well, why have a wonderful user interface to the wrong thing? That’s going to be a lost, failed product. It’s not going to do any good. Well, on the other hand, let’s say we have all the right features, a great deep design. We are solving a problem people really want to have solved. And we would do them a lot of good if only they could use these features. But the features are represented by cryptic commands and weired, no options and very convoluted, confused navigation system, et cetera, et cetera. And therefore people can’t use the features. Well, OK, a feature that people can use might as well not be in the product anyway. And so great feature design, great deep design, terrible surface design, might as well also not exist. So both have at the same time be great. That’s if true, a great example of duality. Well, no doubt it is. You important or not? Well, OK, we are to conference, that’s called the U.S. Conference. So we are maybe a little bit biased in our response to this question.

We tend to sort of maybe think that U.S. is important. And I would certainly say, yes, it is important. And now we have a session on UKCS measurement in our why and return investment can be really, really high for doing good. You work. We have so many cases where companies, you know, vastly, vastly expand the business value of doing good design versus bad design. It is really important, really worth doing. Well, yes. On the other hand, is it actually the most important or the only important thing in the world or in a company? And the answer is clearly no. I mean, there are many other things that are important and often maybe even more important. And so as an analogy, let’s think about something completely different. Accounting and accounting important. A secondary. No? Well, it’s important. I mean, if you have bad accounting, you have no clue about how your cash flow is going. Well, one day you’re going to wake up and you can’t meet payroll. Not good. Right. On the other hand, is accounting the most important thing in a company? Right. You have that complete control over every time, but you have to have a good product, good marketing, good management, good Vereide and many other things for this company to be successful. So accounting cannot be said to be the only thing or maybe even the most important thing. But it is important you x same thing. So what are we emphasizing or working on and what’s important for us as a discipline product. A process. So by product I mean the thing we’re designing by process, I mean how we go about designing it. And in my career I’ve actually studied or worked on both of these two. So I’m going to show you two books I wrote. So on the left we have designing Web usability that was all about product. That book had a lot of guidelines for what makes for a good website or bad Web site. It didn’t say anything about how you make that website just what it should be. So that was a true product focused like and this is how a good website is. So this is a conversion like how a bad website is so good. Don’t do those things. Well, the book on the right usability, engineering, all about process, all about the systematic approach to improving usability. And it didn’t talk at all about what you were designing. In fact, the book is kind of from before the Web really took off. And yet all these methods described in the book, like no user testing and Ristic evaluation, etc., all these methods are the exact once we’ve applied since then to find out what makes for good or bad websites and also even newer products, you know, mobile staff, watch Bates computers, et cetera.

You know, the methodology, the process, you know, applies to all these different products. So I would just say, and this is the reality of what we can truly say, that both sides are really important and both of them need attention. So now I will first talk a little bit about that product aspect of UX and then we’ll turn later on to the process aspect. So my first duality is, though, is that we do we don’t have a user interface and there’s a big trend actually towards zero user interface products. So various artificial intelligence products that have worked at his agency don’t have any Pushilin partners. Any commands is produced like I do things for you. And there’s also a voice based interfaces which don’t have this visible user interface. I mean, they do have a user interface because I speak a command and you listen to the response. And they have a lot of, by the way, guilty issues because a voice is an ephemeral media type.

So as soon as I spoken, someone is gonna switch to computers, respond, and that’s also gone. I can colleagues look at like I can look at it. Aramis is on a computer screen. I can look at it instead sort of icons and try to decide which ones to click on. So there’s a lot of small downside to this, but they also have some news, various advantages as well.

So that is a big trend towards reducing or eliminating know things you can click on and things you can read and think should. I mean, that is you should actively interact with it.

But at the same time, we had the Converse ibises tendency towards user interfaces and we have more and more user interfaces as animal products have a user interface in them. Are computerized software driven? I mean, it used to be that user interface was for computer design.

Originally, mainframe design and data on PC design and data on mobile decided mobile is just a PC in your pocket.

So same basic thing. But now you like your toothbrush, has a user interface and is, you know, on the Internet and your. Everything you know in your bathroom scale is on the inside and so forth. Everything is on the Internet and and online and Internet of things, etc. And these things combined to form and I would say a myriad of many, many, many user interfaces that the person has to deal with. At the same time, many of these devices have very bad user interfaces, partly because they don’t have that big screen, which allows us to give a lot of follower of usability guidelines, of giving people good feedback and such. And also partly because it just honestly. That bad design and could be designed better given their constraints, because they had not a lot of attention or knowledge about our UKCS process, many of these people who so many engineers, I would say, who develop a lot of these these products. But the worst scenario here, the worst kind of consequence of this UI everywhere is that the users now, again, this user experience we’re talking about. So the users now have to deal with hundreds of things, but user interfaces as opposed to the old one user interface. Now they have hundreds. And that means that they cannot devote brainpower to understanding and learning so many different things. And so each little thing may only have a small amount of confusion or a small amount of that uncertainty of how I do what. But then you multiply that by 100 and it’s not even just multiply it, because these things have a combinatorics tendency to oh, it works here, but doesn’t work there. And how do you do this and that on the other. And so UI everywhere is really, I think, one of the problematic trends right now. But at the same time, of course, also an exciting trend. And certainly if we want to be selfish and opportunity for us, are we emphasizing productivity? Well, that’s for sure. What we used to do that had always been the core of you is to make it possible for people to basically accomplish their goals and their tasks. You know, whether it’s an enterprise app. And you can you can, let’s say, run your payroll or it’s an e-commerce site, you can actually find and buy something and it’s going to arrive in the next day. Those are all accomplishing no kind of real world related tasks with the computer.

But there’s also a tendency and maybe more so in recent years and historically a tendency to time pass and time passes. The word I kind of picked up from Asia, from India, which means passing time. And so it’s using the computer for its own sake, for entertainment or enjoyment or having a good time.

So a lot of their lot of games, a lot of entertainment style applications, but also other things that people do just for for the sake of time passed, the first announced by people. That’s frivolous. But I think actually, you know, I think it’s acceptable for people to want to have a good time and to not only have serious tasks on the computer, but also have the computer be, you know, an important thing that we can and they can enhance our quality of life.

And, you know, it’s really a distinction that goes back all the way to antiquity, to the ancient Greeks. You know, they had these gods and follow the serious guys who would drive the sun chariot across the sky every day. And I talk to a very hardworking God.

And on the other hand, yet, Dionysus, the god of pot is wine having a good time. Always depicted, you know, in slightly scandalous circumstances in the art artwork from the time the Greeks had those two gods, you know, more than 2000 years ago. That shows it’s a very deep thing in human humanity that we had those two things that we both want to to do. And I think similarly, index, those are both to two things that we should worry about and try to accomplish and work on. Methodology might be slightly different for the two, but just like the product of both types of products that are great things for you to work on, then we have the question to ality. Is you doing good or doing bad? Well, I’ve been in this field for 36 years and I would, of course, only do it if I thought it was doing some good.

So I think that’s a mean part and we can list a lot of things. And this is doing is good. And the main one is maybe that our our kind of main philosophy, I guess, is to make technology advances humans rather than think you must be subservient to technology, empower humanity to control our technology. That’s our main goal. And then if you think more about our more immediate goal and specific projects, they will tend to be things like improve productivity, like I just mentioned, which is the only way anybody ever can get higher and higher salaries to produce more, because any company that pays people more than they produce, they’re going to get out of business. Right. So for people to basically kind of improve their standard of living, we’ve got to improve productivity.

And today’s world is really a knowledge economy, a cognitive economy, which means that the computer tools we’re using are to a great extent the things that holding us back from being able to produce more. And therefore, it’s really our responsibility to enhance the world, drive the world economy forward to its next level. So that, I think, is one of one of the more pragmatic ways we help companies sell more. We do. All these things are actually for the for the better. But then there’s that dark side as well, which again, is more the more the somewhat recent phenomena as opposed to a. The deep roots of deep historical roots on the field, but but more recently, anyway, there has been a bit of a tendency to, for example, design for addiction as opposed to sign for engagement. And there’s a fine line because I think it’s perfectly fine to say we’d like people to just spend a few more Patreus when they come to our website, read a few more articles. So that’s not evil. I mean, I think actually that’s good because you’re hopefully providing something that people will like, but it can turn and become just addictive behavior and where people are like wasting their time rather than enjoying their time. And they kind of almost like depression as opposed to feeling an empowerment. And so that, I think, is what I that’s the other side I’m referring to here, or no abuse of UX insights and guidelines. For example, move to eye tracking. We know that there are certain parts of a Web page that people don’t tend to look at very much. And so. You should use that guideline to put sort of this important information there that people only occasionally will need, but you could use that insight to put information there that you don’t want people to realize or be aware of. And then you can always say, and if I never had a complaint, but, oh, we disclosed this clearly and this spot on the Web page and we show a screenshot, let’s say, in court or something. Well, it’s obviously there, but pragmatic in the interaction scenario, people are not going to look there. And that’s what I would call evil. It’s abuse of the insights we have from our studies to use them against users rather than for users or even also our persuasive design guidelines. So, for example, we have the scarcity principle. I think it is actually being abused by certain websites. You know, when they say, well, we have only three left and only two left, that ticks down and you’re putting the stress in people well. Particularly, you just do it all the time and there might actually be plenty of inventory left for you, like trying to really trick people with this with this pressure, that’s also unethical use of that guideline. And I think it’s actually even also will backfire, because we actually know that when people encounter these type of persuasive methods too often and kind of like in a wrong, overly aggressive manner, they start to distrust that website. They don’t they don’t believe that there’s actually only three left or only two left. So it backfires if you’re too evil. OK, so now let me turn to talk about a few process oriented issues. The first one is the qualitative as a quantitative distinction, usability processes, and we, of course, have both types of methods and I would just encourage they both are good. I do feel, though, that in many companies there’s too much emphasis on the quantitative because of what I just call a no criticism that people think, oh, no, that’s valuable data, whereas insight into how people behave, that’s just chit chat or hearsay or whatever, but also that’s data. True data is not just numbers. It doesn’t have to have a confidence interval. Data can also can very often drive the product forward, more so if their qualitative data, which are broader and richer than if they’re quant. But that said, you shouldn’t only do qualitative because it’s very good to have these more precise measurements as well. And the two methodologies are two types of mythologies. If used in combination, they have really a great synergy effect and you can truly much enhance your understanding of the user experience by combining the two, but not just by by only chasing numbers. So what’s more important, this elite type of design, by which I mean designing those few big products that are almost always in the press and everybody uses them, you know, like the mobile phone platforms or your your PC operating system, things like that that a lot of people are doing or brought design, by which I mean designing a lot of individual products of which they are, you know, millions in the world. And again, my my answer for all of these things is the same with this duality, which is both are important. But, you know, the design certainly has a lot of importance to it. Like, for example, right now we are seeing kind of a split in the world between two different types of platforms being being developed. And we might call one world two systems. And China is going to design probably like entire new set of systems. That’s going to be a platform for billions of users by the end of the century. And so that’s really important for those guys to really get it right. Well, now, you may say it’s ridiculous for me to talk about billions of people by the end of the century because who cares about the end of the century? I think we should care because this type of infrastructure, things tend to be very, very long lasting. Many of the things that we used today in graphical user interfaces come from the original work, like about 50 years ago or so, and graphical user interfaces. Now, luckily, the guys who designed those things back then were very good. And so that’s why we’re not suffering so much under still using many of these things. But it is really poor. They have very long lasting effect. Just an example, in the London Underground, the circle line was built about 100, 150 years ago. And back then it didn’t have these boring machines that we use now, like humongous drills that just drill a tunnel under a city where you can put a train train line. What they did, big Victorian era engineers, they were can do people. They had 10000 men with shovels. And they dug up the streets of London and then they put in a tunnel and then they shovel back to soil on top of it and to cover it. And that’s the London Underground, the first line, the circle line. And I’ve been writing the circle line, you know, in recent years. And so 150 years later, we are still running that train train in the line. And the exact path of that line is determined by which streets they could dig up in London 150 years ago. And so these things have very long lasting impact. But that’s so on the one hand, very important. But on the other hand, I do think that ultimately much bigger value accrues from all of the many, many, many things that are more individual products. You know, millions, hundreds of millions of probably of user interface designs in the world combine to form much more of that user experience than the design of of the phone and the design of your of your laptop. So I think that’s where the more so accumulative you X value comes from, both in terms of user experience, impact on humanity, and also in terms of business impact of our financial economic value of that design work. And so as another analogy, let’s think about electricity. So the design of electricity to build power plants and yes, power plays a very important without them we don’t. Nothing comes out of the plot down here. So, you know, we’ve got to have have power plants. On the other hand, the true value of electricity comes from all the many things like that light bulb and this projector and even this clicker, which uses very little electricity, you know, but that’s what allows me to forward the slides instead of having to walk all the way over there and click the button on the computer and I can click it here instead. And so that’s and value add. Right. That comes from having a little tiny bit of electricity sitting in in the battery here. And so you add that up by a month, add up, you know, millions of things that you said, hundreds of millions of things to do was right. And that combined business value of all of those products or the combined impact on people is much more than the impact of the power plants. And yet we certainly can’t do without the power plants either. So both are important. Now, how do we go about our process? Do we have the systematic approach that I was reading in my book a while ago? I call the engineering approach or do we have more of a hacking approach putting it together and, you know, like just throw it at the wall and see what sticks. And I think that has become too much of an approach in recent years of like so I’ve just just almost random design and just throw it out and do a few things and we’ll see if what the users like or not. And I really feel that these very often to bad design and in particular really much leads to sort of spaghetti design, not a coherent user interface architecture because it’s not designed through. And it also leads to a lot of wasted effort, a lot of expense. You know, it’s when you do that kind of hacking approach, just throwing something out, inevitably you will find you’ll have to change it. And it’s about 100 times more expensive to change the user interface after shipping than it is if you change it whilst it’s just a drawing on your notepad. You really want to want to have a more systematic approach, at least to the bigger type of projects. But that said, it is a duality because I also recognize that in many cases we don’t want to follow the full process. Many times you want to follow a scale back process and sometimes you don’t want to follow any process at all is just a small project. And it’s going to get something out the door now. And there’s all acceptable as an entire continuum there. But all that said, I do think that there’s too much of the hacking approach these days, and I would like to see more of the systematic approach. What are the people we’re targeting? So the OED, which is basically all the rich countries in the world, did a big study of the computer skills in the workforce. And this is their basic finding is that across the rich countries, five percent of the users are what we might call power users, people who are able to do advanced tasks with computers, people who are actually truly empowered and that they can make computer do what they want it to do. They can combine features to accomplish something that’s not an individual feature. On the other hand, 69 percent, which is basically two thirds, are low end users who can hardly do anything with a computer. They could just react to what the computer is showing them so they can do things. I scroll through a timeline and click the like button if they see something, but once a scroll is off the screen there, no clue on how to get it back. So that’s the vast majority. And so this five percent power users, that’s both the average for all the rich countries and also the specific value for the United States as well. So that’s five percent. You know, that’s honestly not very much. And and then there’s some people in the middle, of course, who can do some things, but not really advanced things. So given this data and it’s a. Really solid. It was a very. Thousands upon thousands of people started in many, many countries with basically the same result in every country, a few few percent up and down, you know, but the basic conclusion, the same given that what should be. Well, I mean, the numbers really, this is where quantitative data comes in handy, right? Because the numbers speak a very clear message here. The six to nine percent, that’s what we should mainly target. I actually think it’s a disgrace that two thirds of the people can’t really use computers other than what’s being shown to them. So if the goal is empower people to use to be in charge of technology, we’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to make computers at a suitable for no normal average people, not just for people like ourselves, because I bet you everybody in this room is probably Bongo’s five percent. And this is one of the oldest lessons we have in usability is you are not the user. So the vast majority of people have a much harder time with computers and we do need to fix that. That’s a serious, serious problem we’ve got to look at. On the other hand, I don’t think to Alliss, it’s not the only thing we shouldn’t abandon or forget about the power users because they are often people who have very important jobs, may very high value decisions, and they are quite poorly supported actually by current computer technology. It’s not well suited for doing advanced things, Advanced Decision-Making or understanding large amounts of data. We don’t really have great support for that in current computers either. So we also need to focus resources on designing better for the power users and getting them true power, not just in mightly power they have right now. And so, by way of another analogy, let’s think about about opera. So opera, I don’t actually know the exact percentage, whether it’s five percent or whatever, but it’s surely a small percentage of the population who goes to the opera. And that’s, generally speaking, not a big problem except for the opera companies, but a very small percentage of people like go to opera. Now, we could donate to give a ticket to the broad masses and force them to go and sit in the Opera House for an entire evening of Wagner. And they’re not going to like it because Mokoena, who’s the composer who gave a rise to this expression, it’s not over till the fat lady sings and she doesn’t sing until very late in the evening because they have very long operas. So the vast majority of people, you just can’t get them to like opera now. So therefore, well, we have pop music, so we have another type of music that many, many more people like. Now, what I would say is a shame would be if we only had pop music. I think it’s good. We also have other types of music that maybe don’t appeal to so many people. But for the people who do like to go and sit for three hours and listen to a more complex piece of music, I think it’s good to have. So it’s not like only one or only the other, but rather there can be many different things. So I’ve talked about a variety of different ways in which there’s a duality of multiple to different things to consider and user experience. And I think if we kind of revisit that list, we can almost like make sort of a random generator of New Kino’s for every single UKCS conference for the next many years. So here’s a list of some of them. And let’s just throw throw darts at the screen. And so maybe this is an example, right? So we say, well, we should emphasize surface design because it’s got to be beautiful. On the other hand, is actually secondary to business because it’s going to be zero user interfaces and productivity is the thing to emphasize, not this frivolous time stuff. So that would be one great keynote. Take a strong stand. OK, that’s usually what they do in these type of speeches. And so I’m like the exception here because they work too well. We could do the exact opposite speech, right? Well, deep design is what really is important. And because it’s very important to business, it’s everywhere. And we should also now consider this time password’s would be a much larger part of the economy and much larger part of you. So in the future, so I can make either speech and it’s going to be about very compelling and convincing, hopefully. And I could throw some other dice and get another speech. But what I really is my true message here tonight is that that’s not really valid because these things are dualities that are both sides to those coins and they are quite a lot of these coins. Right. And I’ve gone over on the speech and so you has this many, many aspects where you cannot just take a simple, strong stand, but rather you got to consider stand on both legs, so to speak. You’ve got to consider both. So let me give you an example of sculpture since we started out with paintings. So here’s a sculpture of a Greek warrior named Philip him. And he was in a battle in year 222 B.C. and the statue was made about 2000 years later. So it probably doesn’t look anywhere like him. And in particular, I sincerely doubt he would go into battle naked. Except for one strategically placed strap, so let’s just consider this not as historical documentation, but rather as an artistic expression, and I do think this is a great artistic expression of a strong, powerful warrior. I mean, he looks strong, he looks determined. He looks like he don’t want to get on his wrong side because you’re going to lose. So that’s if you look at the statue from this angle. Well, let’s take a few steps to the left and look at the statue from the other angle. Now we see he got his spear javelin through his thigh. In the battle, and then he pulled it out. Ouch, I just say, ouch, he pulled it out and then he kept fighting, and so that’s why he’s his famous. So we look at the statue from his other angle. We see now a wounded warrior. So now it’s true. Well, both are true. He’s a powerful warrior who got wounded. And that, of course, happens in the battle. Right. So this sculpture has this advantage that that the paintings don’t have, that they can show us multiple perspectives as we walk around to sculpture. And so that, I think, is actually even the best analogy for user experience because it has all these things in it at the same time. And depending on how we look at it, we can see the different perspectives. So because we have to have these multiple perspectives, all kind of active, all something that we need to to think about, you know, that’s that’s why you see hard. That’s not a simple answer right now. So that’s in one way to my conclusion and the talk. But I can’t just leave you with a slide. The situation is hot. So so there’s actually another perspective. Duality US is easy because for any given project, we don’t need to consider all of the complexities of the entire concept of user experience and the field and the history and blah, blah. No, for any one project, then we do take a stand. OK, now we’re going to emphasize this method. We’re going to target this audience. I mean, just make your decisions, your choices, and now we know what to do. Just remember that for your next project, the same choice. The choices might be different because there are these complexities underlying it. But for any one thing you can do, make your choices. And this is one of the true characteristics of like a true professional, true you seasoned professional is that you know when to do what and you can choose and you don’t have to ponder everything all the time and you can never get anything done because so many things to worry about. No, make your choice and you go there. And if we do that, well, then yes, it says it’s easy and that’s how we make our progress. Thank you very much.

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