UX Lisbon: Dawning of the Age of Experience

by Luke Wroblewski May 14, 2010

At User Experience Lisbon (UX LX), Jared Spool walked through The Dawning of the Age of Experience with some tips on how design organizations can align towards good experience design. Here's my notes from his presentation:

  • 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.
  • Netflix has 14 million subscribers with 20 continuous quarters of greater than 50% growth. 85% of new subscribers say an existing subscriber recommended them. 93% of subscribers say they evangelize Netflix to friends and family. Netflix did all this with just a Website.
  • Boardrooms are paying attention to these examples because companies are making lots of money creating good experiences.
  • But not all design stories are positive.
  • A big box retailer paid 100 million dollars for a Web site. The day of the launch they lost 20% of revenue. It took them three and a half years to recover.
  • When a highly visited Website launched a new design, page views dropped 40% but they made money off of advertising.
  • So experience design is important. How do you do it right?

Learning Experience Design

  • At an AIGA conference, a designer named Gong created a product design that had addressed all the needs of day traders without doing any research. Jared’s team had done extensive research and identified the same problems that Gong’s design solved. When pressed how he did it, Gong said “I just thought about it.” How can you teach that kind of design?
  • You don’t know what sex a baby chick will be until six to eight to weeks. There are some people who can identify the sex of chickens at two to three weeks. You can get trained to do this. After a couple years of study you can get to 95% accuracy. But it requires a lengthy process of mentorship.
  • There are many situations where we can learn things but we can’t explain the process of doing so.
  • Really good experience design is learned but not open to introspection. How can we train the amount of designers we need, when we can’t develop a curriculum?

The Role of Design & Designers

  • When asked why they love Netflix, people have lots of reasons but they don’t mention information architecture, Ajax interactions, etc. Because when done well, design is invisible.
  • While most airlines have complex terms of service policies, Southwest Airlines has a simple, easy-to-understand terms of service. Southwest takes experience design across the whole organization.
  • Experience design needs copy writing, information architecture, usability testing, interaction design, visual design, curation analytics, and more.
  • As the number of things people need to consider for Web applications has increased, the size of the teams has actually decreased. We need people that can do multiple things not single things.
  • The best organizations think in terms of people’s skills not roles. They work on building everyone’s skills by giving people opportunities to learn.

Three Core Attributes of Effective UX Teams

  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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?