I am sure that most of you, if not all, have heard about the notion of a disruptive technology or product. The basic idea of a technology or product being disruptive is that someone comes up with an innovation that transforms a market by making something that everyone accepts to be difficult, expensive, complicated and inconvenient into something that is easy, affordable, simple and convenient. In so doing an industry can be completely redefined. Think iPhone, gaming consoles, online education, tablets to name but a few. If you are interested in disruptive products listen to the video by Harvard Business Professor Clayton and read his books on innovation. The interesting paradox of his theories is that better is not necessarily the path to being a game changer.
So what has this to do with UX or User Experience? Well I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to come up with products that are easy, affordable simple and convenient. What are the questions to ask and the creative, cognitive mental paths to follow that yield these kinds of results? If you put your UX x-ray goggles for a moment and look into the essence of what that sentence says, it really boils down to a human being being able to do their stuff and get it done without hassle, be it phoning a business partner and conveniently video conferencing in another 3rd party, or writing code and having the editor help you with syntax. It all has a lot to do with UX. You see, it’s really all about what people do as people go about doing their stuff. It’s so not about the technology, but rather about the goals and motivations that people have. That is what you need to understand. The technology only empowers and enables or hinders these elements. Do you see the difference? The insightful innovator who understands this and is able to discern what people are doing, has the some of the key ingredients to make a disruptive technology. Once this awareness of what people are doing is present, it becomes so much more achievable to make it easier to do those things with a new disruptive innovation. Need I say that by disruptive I mean the good kind and not the kind that disrupts your tasks at hand.
“You’re still not explaining very well what this has to do with UX !”. Ok, so here is the link: Did you know that a key part of designing engaging user experiences is doing Task Analysis. Task analysis is a UX exercise in which you examine your target audience and carefully identify what it is that they are doing in conjunction with the goals that they may have. You should also factor in their state of mind and emotions both before, during and after the task at hand. The overall context of the task also matters because it can yield insights as to what might make the task easy or hard to do. These tasks form a part of persona scenarios. For example:
While waiting in the doctors office, Jill checks her email.
(Insight : She is probably on a mobile using the slow doctors wi fi )
In between meetings John updates his weekly status report
( Insight : He is always in a rush and needs just core accurate information not detail ).
The point being that when user centered task analysis for a product is done well, it leads to engaging user experiences because the product has been designed to help people get stuff done in the way that they do it. When these tasks, personas and scenarios form the basis of the features that you offer in your product it leads to simpler and cheaper designs with a clearer user centered focus. A focus that people like because their digital lives become less visible and more integrated with the way that they do things. Less can indeed be much more. More sales. More profit. More customers. For products that traditionally might make a given task hard, a competing product with a good UX can displace that product entirely, even from well established entrenched incumbent companies. Yes I am talking to you Apple, Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, Facebook, Google…. History is proof of this. It can even be disruptive. The value of UX is to large to ignore. You simply cannot afford to not do it well.
– Mitch Harpur