User Experience, as a profession, has become so rigid that it is affecting our ability to fully understand the value we can bring to projects, design solutions, customer engagements, and companies. All too often, we get caught up in doing the proper design activities that an organization or our education has taught us need to happen if we are to be considered true experience designers. Many talk about our UX design process as being transformative when, in reality, it often resembles a wash-rinse-repeat cycle that produces a lot of sameness.
As UX professionals, it is in our nature to want to do great things, but we don’t always have the patience necessary to see through every detail that adds up to greatness. For those of us who embrace the strategic aspects of our profession, in doing so, we sometimes fail to see that tactical things we do every day are what help us to achieve our larger goals. It is actually our ability to be flexible in our process and perceive what next steps will lead us to our goal that lets us achieve greatness.
The Elusive Perfect Experience
The WalkMe blog post “The UX of a Banana: Understanding What UX Design Is All About” provides an excellent description of what a user experience should be. For those of you who have not yet read it, it’s a short, worthwhile read. Basically, the post makes the assertion that a banana exemplifies what Mother Nature would think of as the best possible user experience. (That is, of course, if we are willing to believe that Mother Nature thinks of such things.) If she does, she probably spent considerable time thinking up the banana peel. She gave it visual cues us to inform us of the banana’s ripeness. The makeup of a banana peel makes a banana quite sturdy in transport, while at the same time, the peel serves as the perfect packaging to prevent a mess. In short, the banana peel is a clever example of how most of us would describe the perfect experience.
The post omitted one fact and perhaps this was on purpose: the same thing that makes the banana a great experience is also what could potentially result in a tragic experience for someone else—if someone eats a banana then carelessly discards the peel. Banana peels are particularly slippery. Many cartoons have depicted one or more characters slipping on a banana peel. In such cases, the very qualities that are inherent in the peel may make it seem like a design mistake.
In crafting a real-world experience for people to consume, we can make our very best effort to create a great experience and still fail. The best UX research, the prettiest wireframes you ever created, and implementation by a technology team that gets user experience could all culminate in an experience that fails to meet its mark. This happens every day—and, understandably, professionals working in the experience design world get super bummed out about it.