IA Summit: From Here to Experience

by April 13, 2010

At the IA Summit in Phoenix, AZ Jared Spool outlined the role of an experience vision in keeping design teams focused and innovating. Here's my notes from his presentation From Here to Experience:

  • Zune has 5%, Sandisk has 7%, and Apple has 75% market share in MP3 market. iPods do not have the best hard disks, screens, etc. but people love it. Apple has sold 10 billion songs, 3.5 billion songs a year, more than 150 ipods sold every minute.
  • Boardrooms are paying attention to this because companies are making lots of money creating good experiences.
  • How do you define experience? Compare six flags (all about the rides), Disneyland (all about the experience).

How do we create great experiences?

  • Customer experience measurements: loyalty, confidence, integrity, pride, and passion.
  • The three core attributes of user experience teams –vision, feedback, and culture.
  • Vision: can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your product five years from now? What is the design you are working towards?
  • The key is vision. Can everyone on the team describe the experience of using your design five years from now?
  • Not asking people to describe the design in five years but the experience of use in five years.
  • The vision has to be far enough out to escape the current constraints of your technology, users, and organization. But not too far out to be completely unreachable.
  • Everyone on the team should recite the same story.
  • Apple’s 1987 Knowledge Navigator video was a vision of what portable computing could be like. The progression of Apple’s products has slowly gotten them closer to the vision in the video.
  • Vision is big enough that everyone can see it –it’s a huge flag in the sand. If things change a lot, the flag can be moved but everyone can still see where it is.
  • Vision should be very specific to an organization’s goals and be measurable so people know when it has been achieved.

Steps for creating a vision

  • 1) Identify the design agents –everyone who will influence the final design outcome. Make sure they are all involved. We want to get to the point where everyone can say the same thing. Every design agent needs to see the envisionment.
  • 2) Conduct some research –figure what you are going to build and for who. The amount of research you need depends on what you already know. Research can help you identify behavioral-based personas.
  • 3) Craft the personas and scenarios –this helps you model the actors in your envisionment. Look for the personas and scenarios that can benefit most from your vision. Scenarios are the framework for understanding your current experience and future aspirational experience.
  • 4) Script the envisionment
  • 5) Produce the envisionment. Most envisionments are not highly produced or expensive to make.
  • 6) Inoculate the team with the vision
  • Vision should focus on an inspirational experience and ultimately live in people’s heads. A video or artifact is only an envisionment not a vision.
  • Innovation happens in between the current experience and the inspirational experience.

Feedback & Culture

  • Feedback: in the last six weeks, have you spent at least two hours watching someone use your design or a competitor’s design? You need team members to have first-hand exposure to people using your product. Many teams don’t use the products they design.
  • Two hours gives you enough time to see the subtleties and nuances of how people use products. It has to be recently (last six weeks) or else it is forgotten. Once you start to see the same problems over and over again, you focus and fix them. The best organizations do this weekly.
  • You can gather feedback with usability testing, field studies, and first-hand persona development. But the key part is exposure. Try to increase hours and frequency. Don’t think in terms of number of participants –think in terms of exposure (hours and frequency).
  • Design agents to that impact experience: core team (makes the bulk of the decisions) and secondary agents (impact the total experience customers have)
  • Culture: in the last six weeks, have you rewarded someone for a major design failure? Every failure is an opportunity to learn. When you celebrate failure, you get to ask some questions –what did we learn about our users, ourselves, our product?
  • Risk adverse companies produce crap.
  • The recommended order for implementation. Start with feedback (most initial gains), then work on vision (in small pilot projects that will not sink the cash cow), then work on culture (it is the hardest).