Webstock 2008: Kathy Sierra

by Luke Wroblewski February 15, 2008

Kathy Sierra’s talk at Webstock 2008 described some of the important functional attributes of our brains and how they shape the decisions we make when designing user experiences.

  • Don’t “bait and switch” on people. Sales vs. tech support. Marketing materials vs. user manual. After companies gain a customer, they treat them like crap.
  • What is it about face-to-face contact that we can’t replicate?
  • If we want to make great apps, we need to provide this humanness. Help people get together offline. Make software interactions be more human
  • We have a legacy brain. Your mind thinks you are living in 2008. Your brain thinks you are living in caves. Your brain & mind are in a battle.
  • Because of this, it’s hard to get things past spam filters in people’s brain. That what you feel, that’s what the brain lets in. Our legacy brain cares about scary things, new things (that do not match expectations), things that need caring (babies, etc.), joy (crucial to our survival).
  • Our brain loves puzzles, mysteries, and things unresolved. Brain wants to fill in the blanks.
  • Where there is passion, there is a user kicking ass. People want to get better. The better you are the higher the resolution of your experience. You start hearing and seeing things others don’t.
  • Two thresholds for ability vs. time. Suck threshold and passion threshold. In middle region people are just component. Our job is to get people up the curve faster.
  • Nobody wants to be a “tool” expert, they want to be an expert in what the tool enables. It’s not about usability –it’s about the whole user experience.
  • Manuals should help people achieve success so they can accomplish what they want to do.
  • Telepathy-driven design: can we make our apps seem like they are reading your mind?
  • Mirror neurons explain why people watch sporting events –same parts of brain react when watching as when doing activity. This allows us to simulate another person’s brain.
  • How much your brain lights up when doing something, depends on how much experience you have with an activity.
  • We need careful observation and prior experience in order to know what people are thinking.
  • For user experience design, feelings matter more than thoughts.
  • To create empathy can get mirror neurons firing by showing people using software.
  • Can see real pain on people’s faces. Need to see people doing things vs. just hearing them talk about it. Facial expressions let people understand what others are thinking. Reports & listening doesn’t do it. Need to see people in action (observation).
  • Software has no idea of what is happening in facial expressions.
  • How do we account for that? Add a way for people to get information.
  • Can get 80% of what people want into a help system by observing them using an app.
  • T-shirt development: provide shirts for customers. Real bits allow people to get gifts. Way for people to say something about who they are. Atoms matter.