What Does a Meaningful UX Experience Mean?
We were approached by the Drum magazine to talk about our expertise in UX. The text was originally published here: thedrum.com/industryinsights/2015/10/28/what-does-meaningful-ux-experience-really-mean
The concept of User Experience Design has been around for a long time. The field, as we refer to it today, has emerged over the last 25 years as a revolution in the software industry, however purists will maintain the concept of UX in a digital context is a whole separate entity.
Despite the relative popularity of user-centred design and the proven results it brings, too many companies remain reluctant to embrace this different view, instead continuing to focus on the users’ functional needs. The ability to build applications alone isn’t enough – simply pushing extensive features will no longer ensure success as there is finally a need to actually listen to what a user needs.
Audiences are now more aware and more sophisticated, demanding more meaningful experiences which satisfy deep, emotional value and there is likely to be a swift cull of any organisation not investing in understanding their users to guide the future of their designs.
The Value of a Meaningful Experience
The phrase “Meaningful Experience” has been widely used within the digital industry, however it is often only mentioned in relation to usability and artificial delight. Nathan Shedroff, one of the pioneers of experience design, describes it as “one that reaches beyond the person’s functional, emotional and identity needs. It answers the key question of ‘Does this fit into my world?’ And if businesses focus on the meaning, and work from the centre out, the questions about price, performance, triggers and design decisions would sort out themselves”. The deeper you anchor your brand into the user’s life, the more sustainable relationship you will have and this is where the future of commercial success lies.
Using UX to Build ‘Meaning’ Into Your Digital Experiences
Before answering any design questions, you need to gather all the data you can about the audience your company connects with. Experience design should be built on methodologies such as ethnography (qualitative), web analytics (quantitative) and validated with methods such as user testing or, more recently, emotional tracking.
The right mixture of research and design methods will enable you to understand the emotions expressed by users involuntarily, behaviours they don’t typically mention and data patterns that show you what has worked and what hasn’t. Emotional and behavioural measures need to be applied at every step of the user journey – when an issue appears, the designer needs to understand what happened and why. It’s an iterative process – it’s a relationship – your brand learns about the users and they, in turn, learn about you.
The famous professor of psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, states that if we’re more involved in something, if we co-create, we feel a sense of accomplishment. Companies that relate to the ‘meaning’ layer of human nature are able to provide a natural two-way communication that enables customers to co-create the culture arising around the organisation and therefore establish deeper relationships.
So What’s Next For Meaningful UX?
Customers give away their emotional responses on so many different levels and typically we, subconsciously-biased observers, can only see the symptoms of emotions with traditional research. The technology to empower us is out there – tracking skin conductivity, blood volume pressure, mouse-clicking behaviour, keystroke dynamics analysis, micro gestures and micro expressions. The direction we need to take now is to make all these novel methods less intrusive and therefore more usable for both researchers and participants.
At Pomegranate, our ambition to better understand the emotions and behaviours at work during digital experiences has enabled us to partner with a selection of great academics and institutions – we are currently working with the Experimental Psychology division of Bristol University, in search of improved ways to measure the mind at work within the customer journey.
We deeply believe that emotional design will keep gaining traction and not only within the digital industry. Yet with the digital industry being the most agile of all, we need to work together on finding new ways to complement ethnography and analytics with understanding emotions, as it is these emotions that reflect the hidden layer of what it truly means to be meaningful.