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As I am reading the Funology book edited by Blythe, Overbeeke, Monk and Wright (2005); I stumbled upon a good design principle in designing good experience. It is not the earliest, but I believe it is one of the good principles backed by research in interaction design (Djajadiningrat, Overbeeke & Wensveen, 2000).

The book includes several names in UX and usability like Norman and Hassenzahl. The book itself is an effort in expanding usability in relation to UX and Interaction design.

I think the principles that are mentioned here makes sense and practical. I write it down here for my personal note and hopefully some of you can benefit from this too.

The rules:

1. Don’t think products, think experiences.
The designer needs to offer the user a context in which he may enjoy a film, dinner, cleaning, playing, working with all his senses. We talk of creating a context for experience rather than just an experience, because we cannot impose a particular experience on a user, who is bound to explore the design in his manner. A design should offer the user the freedom for building his or her experiences.
2. Don’t think beauty in appearance, think beauty in interaction.
Usability is generally treated separately from aesthetics. Aesthetics in product design appears to be restricted to making products beautiful in appearance. As the ease of use strategies do not appear to pay off, this has left us in the curious situation that we have products, which look good at first sight, but frustrate us as soon as we start interacting with them. We think that the emphasis should shift from a beautiful appearance to beautiful interaction, of which beautiful appearance is a part. Dunne (1999) too talks of ‘aesthetics of use’: an aesthetics which, through the interactivity made possible by computing, seeks a developing and more nuanced cooperation with the object – a cooperation which, it is hoped, might enhance social contact and everyday experience.
3. Don’t think ease of use, think enjoyment of the experience.
Current efforts on improving usability focus on making things easier. However, there is more to usability than ease of use. A user may choose to work with a product despite it being difficult to use, because it is challenging, seductive, playful, surprising, memorable or rewarding, resulting in enjoyment of the experience. No musician learnt to play the violin because it was easy. Bringing together ‘contexts for experience’ and ‘aesthetics of interaction’ means that we do not strive for making a function as easy to access as possible, but for making the unlocking of the functionality contribute to the overall experience.
4. Don’t think buttons, think rich actions.
The controls of the current generation of electronic products, whether physical or screen-based, require the same actions. By increasing the richness of actions, controls cannot only be perceptually differentiated, but also motorically. Here again the goal is not differentiation for differentiation’s sake, but the design of actions, which are in accordance with the purpose of a control.

 

5. Don’t think labels, think expressiveness and identity.
Not only do current electronic products themselves look highly similar, their controls, whether physical or screen-based, also are often hard to tell apart. This has made it necessary for controls to be labeled with explanatory texts and icons, which are either illegible or unintelligible, regardless of whether they are physical or screen-based. We think that instead designers should differentiate between controls to make them look, sound and feel different. More importantly though, this differentiation should not be arbitrary. The ‘formgiving’ should express what purpose a product or control serves. This would require a replacement for the current aesthetic with rows of identical controls which so heavily relies on repetition as a means to a achieve a unified and aesthetically pleasing whole, for which the expression of the individual controls are sacrificed.

6. Metaphor sucks.
The use of metaphor has become commonplace in both HCI and product design. ‘We could use a such and such metaphor’ is an often-heard statement. We think the usefulness of metaphor is overrated. When trying to describe a design in absence of the thing itself it may be necessary to rely on metaphor. But this does not necessarily mean that whilst interacting with the product the user understands the design through one single, consistent metaphor. Gentner and Nielsen (1996) and Gaver (1995) also point out the limits of perfect fitting metaphors. The challenge here is to avoid the temptation of relying on metaphor and to create products, which have an identity of their own.
7. Don’t hide, don’t represent. Show.
Current product design has a tendency to hide the physical components, even those that are highly informative to a product’s operation. A choice is made in favour of an alternative representations rather than physical manifestation inside drawers so that we need sophisticated displays to tell us which paper format lives where. It is the designer’s task to make these last remaining physical hold-ons visible and make optimal use of them in the interaction process.

 

8. Don’t think affordances, think irresistibles.

Both the HCI and product design communities have borrowed the term affordances from perception-psychology and have hooked onto mainly its structural aspects whilst neglecting the affective aspects. We lament this clinical interpretation of affordance. People are not invited to act only because a design fits their physical measurements. They can also be attracted to act, even irresistibly so, through the expectation of beauty of interaction.

9. Hit me, touch me, and I know how you feel.
We may slam doors in anger, chew a pen or write with it frantically, sip our coffee or gulp it down in haste. If we design products, which invite rich actions, we can get an idea about the user’s emotions by looking at these actions (Wensveen et al, 2002).
10. Don’t think thinking, just do doing.
HCI methodologies often separate the cognitive, verbal, diagrammatic and abstract ‘thinking’ design phase from the visual, concrete, ‘doing’ phase, and emphasize the former. In product design, ‘doing’ is seen as equally valid as thinking and as beneficial to the design process even in the very early stages. Handling physical objects and manipulating materials can allow one to be creative in ways that flow diagrams cannot. In the design of the physical, knowledge cannot replace skills. You can think and talk all you want, but in the end, the creation of contexts for experience, the enjoyment and the expressiveness require hands-on skills.

 

References:

Djajadiningrat, J. P., Overbeeke, C. J., & Wensveen, S. A. (2000, April). Augmenting fun and beauty: a pamphlet. In Proceedings of DARE 2000 on Designing augmented reality environments (pp. 131-134). ACM.

Overbeeke, K., Djadjadiningrat, T., Hummels, C., & Wensveen, S. (2002). CHAPTER ONE Beauty in Usability: Forget about Ease of Use. Pleasure with products: Beyond usability, 7.

Overbeeke, K., Djajadiningrat, T., Hummels, C., Wensveen, S., & Prens, J. (2003). Let’s make things engaging. In Funology (pp. 7-17). Springer Netherlands.

 

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