Published: February 25, 2008
More reliable and permanent than human memory, the technology of written language dominates as the primary method human beings use for conveying abstractions of complex ideas across space and time. The evolution of written language has complemented that of new distribution technologies—from handwritten papyrus scrolls to books and other print publications produced on offset printing presses to the pixels on our computer screens.
However, we have now reached a point at which other technologies have begun to seriously compete with written language as viable methods for not only recording our ideas, but also interacting with the world around us. The nature of our communications is changing rapidly. Immersed in these changes as we are, it’s difficult to evaluate the rate of change, but audio and video are slowly superseding text. This is not to say that text is facing extinction—but its function as the primary means of conveying information is no longer certain. And while the rise of audio and video content preceded popular use of the personal computer, application software, and the Internet, the marriage of all these technologies is creating new forms of communication. One factor—the ability of software to recognize increasingly complex patterns like the nuances of speech and visual representations of people—provides us with possibilities for human/computer interaction that could vastly reduce the need for textual communication. Read more
Published: February 25, 2008
Part One of this series, Applied Empathy, introduced a design framework for meeting human needs and desires and defined five States of Being that represent the different degrees to which products and experiences affect and motivate people in their lives. Part Two explained the three Dimensions of Human Behavior and outlined a variety of specific needs and desires for which we can intentionally design products. This third and final part of the series shows how this design framework maps to a variety of well-known products and experiences and illustrates how this framework can be put to practical use.
Mapping the Framework to Digital Products
It is no accident that user experience and experience design originated with and matured from software development: It is only through truly digital products and experiences that we can satisfy all three Dimensions of Human Behavior, both deeply and simultaneously. Software has a unique ability to incorporate both analytical and emotional hooks into virtually any physical activity, in a way that is typically difficult—and often even impossible—in the analog world. It helps account for both the tremendous financial success and the cultural growth of computing lifestyles since the mainstreaming of the personal computer, which was greatly accelerated by the invention and subsequent ubiquity of the Internet. Digital technology has unlocked the potential of this intriguing triangulation of the Analytical, Emotional, and Physical—in the human condition, never before satisfied so fully—which explains why the most celebrated and successful products in recent years tend to skew toward the digital realm. For this reason, I will use two popular digital products as mapping examples. Read more
Published: February 11, 2008
Findable. Scannable. Readable. Concise. Layered. We know much these days about how to make Web content usable—thanks to experts such as Robert Horn, Jakob Nielsen, Ginny Redish, and Gerry McGovern. What we don’t understand as well, however, is how to make content win users over to take the actions we want them to take or have the perceptions we want them to have. We don’t understand how to make Web content both usable and persuasive. I, by no means, intend to imply that we should sacrifice the usability of content to make it more persuasive. Truly winning content must be both.
Gerry McGovern’s work perhaps delves deepest into the realm of persuasive content, emphasizing a customer-centric approach and the removal of filler content. However, I think we can do even more to win users over through content. I also remain unconvinced that the extreme minimalism McGovern supports is always appropriate. For instance, the “brutal” concision McGovern espouses in his recent article, “Killer Web Content Examples,” while usually appropriate for headlines, titles, or labels, risks creating the wrong tone in other types of content. As a starting point in the journey toward turning usable content into winning content, this article offers key resources that illuminate the creation of usable content and some tips for creating persuasive content I’ve garnered from my own experience. Read more
Published: February 11, 2008
“Ethical dilemmas occur when values are in conflict.”
From the American Library Association Code of Ethics 
Questions of ethics and conflict can seem far removed from the daily work of user experience (UX) designers who are trying to develop insights into people’s needs, understand their outlooks, and design with empathy for their concerns . In fact, the converse is true: When conflicts between businesses and customers—or any groups of stakeholders—remain unresolved, UX practitioners frequently find themselves facing ethical dilemmas, searching for design compromises that satisfy competing camps. This dynamic is the essential pattern by which conflicts in goals and perspectives become ethical concerns for UX designers. Unchecked, it can lead to the creation of unethical experiences that are hostile to users—the very people most designers work hard to benefit—and damaging to the reputations and brand identities of the businesses responsible. Read more