Great User Experience = Invisible and Emotional connection
By ash on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 6:58 AM

The above title seems to make no sense at all. How it possible for an UX (User Experience) to be invisible and yet evoke a powerful emotional connection.

Quick Question – What is the best User Experience for setting the clock on your VCR or DVD player or any device in general?

Most device manufacturers have tried to solve this the wrong way by creating an UI (User Interface) that allows the user to use the remote control or a set of buttons to set the time. That’s why most of the devices either blink 12:00 or have been set by the service technician. BTW, this is a great interview question.

The correct answer to this question is – Does the customer care to set the time? Setting the right time is a requirement for the device not for the customer. The customer is not planning to use the device as a clock, so there is no reason for them to set the time in the first place.

If the customer does not care, the right answer is – the experience should be invisible.

In fact most clocks do this right. They use a radio signal to sync up the time.

But this (setting the clock) is a one time operation only and it takes only a couple of minutes.

The above statement is wrong is so many ways …

1. This leads you down a slippery slope of making the customer do things to use your product that they don’t care about, degrading the UX as you go along.

2. It takes only couple of minutes for customers willing to learn and do it.

3. It is a one time operation till a power failure or a power cord is unplugged, since most devices consume power in standby mode (Maybe an EPA standby power rating would help, but let’s not digress)

Now that you are free of creating UX for things that customers don’t care about you can focus on items that customer really care about to create an emotional connection with them.

Apple is one of the few companies in the world that get this and that’s why the market share for the iPod keeps growing every year.

The iPod uses a combination of a great device, software and service to create an experience that is focused on creating an emotional connection based on what the customer wants to do.

The first step is to understand what the customer wants to do. No kidding, but this is really difficult for most companies to do. In the iPod case, it is listening to customized music on the go.

The elegance of the device, simplicity of wheel interface, shuffle mode, iTunes, music store, etc. are all features and not the end game. Most PRDs (Product Requirement Documents) start and end with feature checklists and are very helpful to create a me too product. That’s why all the iPod wannabes have failed. Copying features without understanding the customer’s goals is a great example of Cargo Cult Engineering.

Choosing the genre of music on the go, to match your mood is a good example on how the wheel on the iPod and tiny screen collaborate to let you quickly select it.

So if the customer cares, the right answer should be – the experience should generate an emotional connection.

If you look at successful products you will see this pattern of Invisible and Emotional connection in their UX. Understanding how customer intends to use your product will help you choose the right UX items to make invisible and right ones to generate an emotional connection.