An Event Apart - The Dimensions of a Good Experience

This is part of a series of posts summarizing my notes from the extraordinary conference An Event Apart, held December 12-14, 2011 at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Alexa Andrzejewski Founder - Foodspotting Description

Good designs are useful, usable and desirable. But what is a good experience? While crafting the experience of her own startup, Foodspotting, Alexa Andrzejewski found answers in urban design. Asking the same question about urban experiences, Kevin Lynch, author of “Good City Form,” extracted a set of dimensions for evaluating experiences. By applying these principles to interactive experiences, you can identify what kind of experience you’re creating for users: Is it adaptable? Does it tell a story? Are there signs of life? You’ll leave with a set of guidelines that, unlike traditional heuristics, will enable you to evaluate the experiential qualities of your designs.

There are no stupid users, only stupid interaction designers.
Notes Learning from Urban Design Learning from cities - urban landscape experience Principles from urban design can give us new ways at looking at our mobile and web designs. Source: Kevin Lynch, Good City Form Example - Transparency - open vs private We know hot to evaluate usability, but how do we evaluate experiences?
  1. Sense of Meaning
    • Does it tell a story? How does it reflect values? Can users read the environment?
    • Urban example: Visual cues
    • Digital example: Foodspotting Homepage
    • What story do you want to tell and how can you use the language of design to communicate it? How is your information architecture structured to support the story?
  2. Sense of Place
    • Does it leave an impression on the senses? Is it memorable?
    • Urban example: distinct neighborhoods
    • Sensory experiences are memorable
    • Smell, see, hear <=> visuals, video, sound, copy writing - all contribute to a user's memory of a site
    • This helps attract a different kind of user (through the design). Focus on key moments to make memorable.
    • What moments do you want users to remember and how can you make them memorable?
    • Show a new user a homepage and ask if they understand the value of the service - how well are you communicating?
    • Digital example: tubmlr,scoutmob
  3. Sense of Structure
    • Can you wrap your mind around the structure? Does the design yield accurate mental maps?
    • When things fit together, you feel in control and the sense of place is integrated.
    • Urban example: subway system
    • Digital example:Path App
    • If you look at a page or screen in isolation, is it evident where it fits into the bigger picture? Are their visual clues that can orient you? Ask users to sketch a map.
  4. Sense of Unfolding
    • Does it get better the more you explore? Is the first time experience tempered so as not to be overwhelming?
    • A good place is one that gets better as you explore.
    • Urban Example: Big plazas, small alleys
    • Digital Example: Foodily Adds features, as user increases usage
    • What is the #1 thing you want people to do on their first visit? Their second? Their third? Can you unlock features as you explore the app/site?
  5. Sense of Transparency
    • Can you see signs of life on the inside from the outside?
    • Urban Example: Fish market - seeing where restaurants get their food, Sidewalk cafe's - open to public view
    • Digital Example: Pinterest
    • What activities do you want users to engage in? Are people able to learn by example? Can people help each other learn how to use things?
    • Different communities value different amounts of transparency. Design the level of transparency to fit your audience.
  6. Fit
    • Does the design of a place anticipate and facilitate people's desired actions so seamlessly that it makes you feel competent and smart?
    • Urban Example: Staircase directional signs, bike ramp
    • Digital Example: Hashable contact sharing interaction starts with just an email or twitter username
    • Observe user behavior and ask user questions: Is there any evidence of misfit? Where are people abandoning?
  7. Adaptability
    • Can users modify or adapt the structure to increase fit?
    • Build things open-ended and learn from real behaviors.
    • Urban Example: Adhoc parks and meeting spots
    • Digital Example: hacked facebook and twitter profile pages
    • Have you noticed any surprising adaptions or workarounds in how users interact with your site or app? What can you learn form them?
    • Observe what your users are doing, then learn form their adaptions. Can you support them? (paving cow paths)
  8. Access
    • How much and what range of choices are presented to a user at a given time? Is it too many or too few?
    • Urban Example: Subway Stations
    • Digital Example: Fab Curated, temporary selection of products. Compare with everything possible on Amazon.
    • When are users presented with palettes of choices? Are there any choices you could take away? A/B test fewer choices, see how behavior changes.
  9. Responsibility
    • Do the users of a place feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the experience?
    • Engage your users to help manage content.
    • Urban Example: Community gardens
    • Digital Example: Gowalla spot fixer, Facebook comments, Quora reputation
    • Real names, reputations produce good behavior.
    • How can you increase users' sense of responsibility?
  10. Certainty
    • Can people trust in the system of control? Does the environment act in predicable ways? (Especially when they are not in control)
    • Urban Example: Transit Information
    • Digital Example: Mint
    • What are the most anxiety-introducing moments in your site or app? What sights/sounds/interactions could reduce this anxiety?
    • Reassure users, build confidence in your product.
Use these as a tool Evaluate your experiences with these lenses and learn from the results.
  1. Sense of Meaning: Does the design tell a story?
  2. Sense of Place: Is it memorable or are there memorable moments?
  3. Sense of Structure: Can you tell how the pieces and parts fit together?
  4. Sense of Unfolding: Are options revealed over time vs. thrown at users all at once?
  5. Sense of Transparency: Can you observe and learn by observation?
  6. Fit: Does it make people feel competent? Is there any evidence of misfit?
  7. Adaptability: Can it be repurposed in novel ways?
  8. Access: Are people confronted with the right number of choices at the right time?
  9. Responsibility: Do people feel ownership of the experience?
  10. Certainty: Can people trust in the system?
Now go forth and create great experiences!