UI11: Making Meaning

by Luke Wroblewski October 12, 2006

Nathan Shedroff’s presentation on Making Meaningful Experiences at the User Interface 11 conference described his framework for making sites that “connect with users on deeper levels”. Meaning (does this fit into my understanding of the world?) is the most important thing in our lives and, as a result, a crucial component of experience design.

A high-level history of design:

  1. Design creates beauty: make it cool, make it beautiful
  2. Design creates function: increasing performance, make it easier or more powerful
  3. Design creates understanding: information design, visual communicators, pulling people into experiences by creating understanding
  4. Design creates experiences: interaction design, experiences and understanding between people
  5. Design creates change: strategy, process, organizational design, sustainability
  6. Design creates value: recently recognized by the business world

Successful experiences are meaningful as opposed to just being novel. Understanding what defines (bounds) an experience helps you push your product toward "experience" instead of toward "commodity":

  • Breadth: all the touch points your customer might encounter. Disjointedness is never going to be applicable
  • Intensity: turn a habit into an engagement
  • Duration: all about things playing out over time
  • Triggers: senses (visual, sight, sound, smell, etc.) & cognitive concepts/symbols
  • Interaction: between people
  • Significance: meaning, status/identity, emotion/lifestyle

Design doesn't make meaning. It evokes it.