Born to Observe!

We don't live in a world of reality,we live in a world of perceptions.

User experience – My take on it! September 16, 2007

Filed under: User experience — amie @ 11:00 am

 

I have a tough time, explaining people what my business title is and why do I need to work in this space. Sometimes even with the most educated people blink at the term “user experience”. It’s not too difficult a term right, it is just “user” + “experience”. Ok! Ok! I know I am just pondering over the same two words in the last four lines but not providing any relevance to my topic. This is exactly what user experience is, I start off my thread with a title but I delve little into in the last few lines. I could in fact write a fancy little story also inbetween, which could further deviate my blog from the topic.  I could actually have some of you frowning or probably chase few of you after starting off in such a note. This is a classical example of bad user experience where there is a clear disconnect between the expectations of my blog reader and what is being actually delivered to them.

 

This is exactly how most of the products we use in our daily lives are built. Most of the product engineers assume that users have all the time in the world to master them. Just to cite an example, I have a swanky home theater system with a cool remote. My mother is not a gizmo freak but then she is quite quick in understanding these new devices, which I bring home. Every time she sits down to see a movie, she stumbles when she has to pause or stop the system. Did I mention she has a distance vision problem? To complicate this experience further, movies are generally seen in low light conditions. So what normally should have been a laid-back entertainment experience actually becomes complex in its own altitude. A small digital remote packed with huge number of buttons, without any distinction in their shapes or color could actually make movie watching completely frustrating sometimes. I do not have problems using my remote because I am quite acclimatized to it. It’s a clear case of not being able to design and engineer a product, which could suits the needs of eclectic crowd. Please don’t say, it is just a remote. Do you know the number of remotes in my house? I have one for my music system; one for my home theater; one for my set top box; one for my television; one for my air conditioner and this list expands. If this is the case with just a remote, imagine utilizing complex devices, websites, applications etc. Trust me, even the most well known brands have learnt the knack of chasing their users away.

 

As we are moving towards the pervasive computing space where man will be constantly trying to win the battle between man and machines, users will have very less time left for us to sit and figure out user manuals to set up and use devices. Its not just gizmo devices, its to do with any relationship users share with a brand. It could be prior to the usage or during the usage or after the usage. I have been doing some car search for the last two weeks, my interaction with the sales men has a great influence on me, the reviews about the brand or the car written on various websites adds one more dimension, the experience that the car offers itself is another dimension of influence.

 

Its not even 2 full years since I have started working in this space. So I can’t call myself a “pro”. But then it is plain common sense/logic in most cases and does not involve complex strategy all the time. It is definitely one area, which is applicable to every product/every service/every system built on this planet earth. Coming to think of it, most of us are consciously or subconsciously related to this in some part of the user experience value chain.

 

UX is a bigger space than one can imagine. Innovations, breakthroughs, discoveries, technology cannot make it big unless we make it work for people.

 

Connected on the digital leash! September 15, 2007

Filed under: Reflections — amie @ 3:11 pm

 

Yesterday we had a seminar session organized for the newbies in the team. They had to present their perspective on user experience, incidentally that’s the practice that I work for. This was organized for a small group of around 15 people.  The presentation was quite interesting especially with a bunch of eager souls trying to give some alternative perspectives on this term which I have been hearing over and over again for the last 1.5 years. Everything was going great for the first ten minutes. After which I noticed that people around me began receiving calls on their mobile. Receiving a call on the mobile is something unavoidable but taking it during a formal session or a meeting is definitely unacceptable to me. Call me old fashioned, but isn’t it bad etiquette to engage in a private conversation during a formal session? No offense meant, to people who were taking the calls, probably they were trying to save the world through these calls. And I don’t want to classify and hold only few responsible in this. Even I have done this before and I am not happy about my bad etiquette.

The other disturbing factor, is taking others time for granted and calling them at any time comfortable for our “own selves”. We expect people to always respond to our calls. People do not think twice before contacting us for some official work even if we are in a vacation. Just imagine, you are spending an intimate moment with your partner and the phone starts ringing. Trust me, that is a huge turn off. I would probably dump my guy if he did. I cant blame him either, can I? We don’t turn off our mobile phones even in most private times because we feel we will get completely disconnected from the rest of the world. What if there is an emergency! What if my parents or my friends are in some grave danger and they are trying to contact me. These are the questions, which come up in my mind whenever I try to turn off my mobile phone. In the last 5 years, I have probably switched off my phone at the maximum for 10 to 15 minutes.  I often wonder, “How did we manage when we did not live in the world of these techno devices?”

This is now become a universal phenomena. I find this common trait amongst my colleagues, my friends, strangers, people who can afford mobile phones and even who cannot. Being constantly connected on mobile phones, those annoying ring tones and this list is definitely going to grow. Clearly, people seem to have forgotten that they are always stepping on others digital boundary, sometimes grossly uninvited. What I see is a change in human behavior. Ok! That’s a huge term. Can I say that technology is actually turning us into this ill-mannered, less tolerant weirdoes? Actually a “weirdo” who is always connected on a digital leash.

 

Love is in the air, rather in airports!! July 6, 2007

Filed under: Reflections — amie @ 6:02 am

She was standing on a long queue for the immigration check. Her heart was pounding and adrenalin was constantly rising. She was going to meet him after a year almost. He had gone to the US on work and had not returned for a year. When she got the opportunity to go to Seattle on a project she jumped immediately and grabbed it. She remembered how emotional it was to say bye to him in Chennai airport. Her eyes were moist and so were his. She wanted to hug him and tell him that she would miss him a lot. But his family and friends also had come to bid farewell to him. So she had to hold herself together without showing her expressions. She really wondered how men were so strong and composed all the time. Finally it was time, he had to leave. He came up to her, shook her hands and said bye, “take care“. Her eyes met his, it was like a silent powerful language being spoken between them rather than using their vocal chords. She felt how intense the moment was and wanted to break it off before she broke down, she quickly exclaimed, “hey, don’t come back with a phirang chick!“, she knew she couldn’t have possibly meant it even in the distant sense. He smirked and so did she, superficially. He quickly moved and waved his hand before he went in. 

The line broke into two, and half the crowd moved to another immigration desk when one of the officers got back from his long gossip session. There was lot of commotion in the process and her thoughts drifted back to reality. She was eagerly awaiting her turn and the Indian guy standing next to her was trying to fill her ears with his first trip experiences. She did not want to listen to it, but he did not give her any option. Suddenly when she was getting closer to the desk, she was very nervous. She was not sure if it was her first international trip which was making her nervous or was it the fact that she would meet him in probably 10 minutes time. And all of a sudden, the ten minutes wait started to look longer and drearier than the one year wait.

 After the long wait, she walked up to the immigration desk and the officer said, “What is the purpose of your visit? She wanted to say the truth, “to meet him”. Instead she said, “Business visit“. The officer had one good look at her and stamped 3 months on her passport. She felt a sense of relief but now the anxiety feeling was gripping her and she wanted to probably run to see him. But the airport was full of security officers and they were constantly looking for suspicious people. So she told herself that she wouldn’t indulge in such acts of stupidity. Finally, she pulled out her baggage out of the carousel, went through the customs check and pushed her trolley as fast as possible and the same time, trying hard to not attract attention. She walked through the exit and reached the terminal entrance. There were people everywhere, some waiting for their friends, some for their families, some for their acquaintances or business partners. The air was filled with excitement, happiness and she could feel that love was everywhere. She looked around everywhere for her long lasting love. She wanted to say so many things; she had rehearsed all of it on the flight. She wanted to hold him, cry aloud which she missed when she said “bye” to him. But there was no sign of him. Her eyes were constantly scanning everywhere and her heart was beating really fast. She started walked full lengths of the lobby and looked for him. But still no sign! She told herself; probably he is caught up somewhere. After 15 minutes of wait, she wanted to see if she could find a pay phone to call him. She found one but she did not have the change. She sat down quietly. She had a sense of disappointment because he has done this before, made her wait lot of times. But there was fear as well in her heart, not knowing if something bad happened to him or probably he did find himself a phirang chick indeed. She wanted to distract herself from all the strange thoughts. She took the book that she carried all the way from Chennai, which she never managed to read beyond the first 30 words. Nothing was getting into her head. She kept constantly looking at the entrance and then mundanely at the book. Thirty minutes passed, still no sign of him.

The crowd started to clear in the terminal and fresh faces started to come in. She had tears in her eye; she traveled for more than 16 hours, she was tired and eager, and her heart was filled with this weird feeling. She did not know whether it was sadness or too much of happiness. She put her head down, tears rolled down her cheek. She wiped it with her bare hands. Suddenly, somebody tapped her shoulder she raised her head; he was standing in front of her. He was dripping wet; probably caught in one of those torrential rains and there was no phirang chick by his side. He had a bunch of red flowers as fresh as his eyes. And all the anger, disappointment, fear, anxiety started to vanish away slowly inside her. He hugged her, lifted her with his strong hands and said, “Baby, I missed you!!“. She felt like a kid in his arms. Before he had come, she wanted to spill all her anger & disappointment, but now all she said was “Me too!!!…