Subject: What are your principles for making digital products/services

21 Sep 2009 - 2:45am
4 years ago
8 replies
1061 reads
Eric Reiss
2007

Dave,

Don Norman is dead wrong about this: "that something emotionally
appealing can basically make up for its lack of usability". I may love a
beautiful object, but I didn't buy Philip Starck's lemon squeezer for
its aesthetic appeal; I was hoping to squeeze lemons. (This is the
piece-of-crap kitchen utensil illustrated on the cover of Don's
Emotional Design book).

There's a definition of kitsch that states that anything that purports
to be one thing, but actually does something else is kitsch. A pepper
mill in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, for example. I think Starck's
lemon squeezer falls into that category - sculpture pretending to be a
useful tool.

For what it's worth, here at FatDUX, we use my Web Dogma as a guiding
philosophy. It has stood up remarkably well over the years, simple
because it provides simple heuristics that are not dependent on either
fashion or technology.

See: http://www.fatdux.com/how/our-web-dogma/

Liz Danzico's article on Boxes and Arrows is also relevant:
http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/dogmas_are_mean

Cheers,
Eric

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eric Reiss
CEO
The FatDUX Group
www.fatdux.com

Comments

23 Sep 2009 - 4:03pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 21, 2009, at 3:45 AM, Eric Reiss wrote:

> There's a definition of kitsch that states that anything that purports
> to be one thing, but actually does something else is kitsch. A pepper
> mill in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, for example. I think Starck's
> lemon squeezer falls into that category - sculpture pretending to be a
> useful tool.

So, I've recently had the opportunity to watch a couple dozen people
buy personal checks for their bank accounts.

Personal checks are a functional item. You use them as a transaction
instrument. An individual, writing a check, spends only a few moments
with them. When used to pay bills, most of the recipients don't know
the check owner (and in many cases are automated processors), so
really don't pay attention to the check's design.

Yet, most of the people buying the checks in our study spent
considerable time choosing the right check for themselves. They were
very particular about the designs they looked at. They showed definite
preferences.

One study participant, was a 45-year-old male lube-and-oil mechanic
who works for a major speedy-oil-change chain. He took considerable
time studying the designs, gravitating to designs that were
particularly, shall I say, girlie. Flowers, bright colors, kittens.

Each time he found one of these he liked, he said, "My girls would
like this." Interviewing him revealed that he's divorced and his two
girls, ages 6 and 8, don't live with him. He was picking out checks
that he thought they'd like.

The design of these checks were important to him. It's unlikely they'd
see the checks -- at most only when he sent them a money gift, maybe
in a card. The designs were less about what the girls would actually
like and more about what he wanted -- a connection to his daughters.

We saw this frequently in the study. People were using the check's
design as an emotional connection. Some were using it as a way to
introduce something pleasant into an inherently unpleasant activity --
paying bills. Others were using it as an extension of themselves
("When I hand a check to someone, it needs to say something about who
I am.") or a tie to their context ("I want Texas scenes on my checks
because I love Texas.").

Independent of the design, the utility of the checks were identical.
There was no reason to pick one check over the other except for its
emotional appeal. The cheapest check is the Blue Safety Check -- a
simple blue-lined pattern which everyone referred to as "boring," even
those who bought them. I was surprised, in the study, at how many
people spent the time and money on buying the fancier checks and their
rationale for choosing them.

The checks with designs would fit under your definition of Kitsch.
They purport to be a financial instrument, but, in fact, they are
something quite more.

I think that's what the emotional design thing is all about.

Jared

p.s. Congrats at getting The Norman pissed off at you. Now, I sat
through the same UX London presentation that you did and I came away
with the same impression: Don did say that he loved his Phillipe
Starck juicer even though it didn't work. However, I do think the book
takes a more complete survey of what the emotional design discussion
is about.

24 Sep 2009 - 3:52am
Gilberto Medrano
2008

The checkbook anecdote was engaging, thanks for sharing those findings.

I suspect that there was something more than just aesthetics going on in
this scenario, semiotics had an active role. Probably this man did not find
a picture of Hello Kitty on his checks as "visually appealing", but the
meaning behind it triggered the emotional reaction that led to his decision
to get it.

The denotative aspect of aesthetics communicates the function (any chair =
possibility to sit). The connotative aspects of aesthetics are our
interpretations or perceptions of aesthetics (wooden bench = "humbleness";
golden throne = "arrogance"). The design of the checks had a special
connotation for that guy that probably other people couldn't see.

The denotative aspects of aesthetics makes it functional (affordance - a
widget can be dragged, a button can be pushed). And even the motivational
power of connotation serves a function in design. I just can't separate
aesthetics from "usability" that easily.

Gilberto

On Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 2:03 PM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
> On Sep 21, 2009, at 3:45 AM, Eric Reiss wrote:
>
> There's a definition of kitsch that states that anything that purports
>> to be one thing, but actually does something else is kitsch. A pepper
>> mill in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, for example. I think Starck's
>> lemon squeezer falls into that category - sculpture pretending to be a
>> useful tool.
>>
>
> So, I've recently had the opportunity to watch a couple dozen people buy
> personal checks for their bank accounts.
>
> Personal checks are a functional item. You use them as a transaction
> instrument. An individual, writing a check, spends only a few moments with
> them. When used to pay bills, most of the recipients don't know the check
> owner (and in many cases are automated processors), so really don't pay
> attention to the check's design.
>
> Yet, most of the people buying the checks in our study spent considerable
> time choosing the right check for themselves. They were very particular
> about the designs they looked at. They showed definite preferences.
>
> One study participant, was a 45-year-old male lube-and-oil mechanic who
> works for a major speedy-oil-change chain. He took considerable time
> studying the designs, gravitating to designs that were particularly, shall I
> say, girlie. Flowers, bright colors, kittens.
>
> Each time he found one of these he liked, he said, "My girls would like
> this." Interviewing him revealed that he's divorced and his two girls, ages
> 6 and 8, don't live with him. He was picking out checks that he thought
> they'd like.
>
> The design of these checks were important to him. It's unlikely they'd see
> the checks -- at most only when he sent them a money gift, maybe in a card.
> The designs were less about what the girls would actually like and more
> about what he wanted -- a connection to his daughters.
>
> We saw this frequently in the study. People were using the check's design
> as an emotional connection. Some were using it as a way to introduce
> something pleasant into an inherently unpleasant activity -- paying bills.
> Others were using it as an extension of themselves ("When I hand a check to
> someone, it needs to say something about who I am.") or a tie to their
> context ("I want Texas scenes on my checks because I love Texas.").
>
> Independent of the design, the utility of the checks were identical. There
> was no reason to pick one check over the other except for its emotional
> appeal. The cheapest check is the Blue Safety Check -- a simple blue-lined
> pattern which everyone referred to as "boring," even those who bought them.
> I was surprised, in the study, at how many people spent the time and money
> on buying the fancier checks and their rationale for choosing them.
>
> The checks with designs would fit under your definition of Kitsch. They
> purport to be a financial instrument, but, in fact, they are something quite
> more.
>
> I think that's what the emotional design thing is all about.
>
> Jared
>
> p.s. Congrats at getting The Norman pissed off at you. Now, I sat through
> the same UX London presentation that you did and I came away with the same
> impression: Don did say that he loved his Phillipe Starck juicer even though
> it didn't work. However, I do think the book takes a more complete survey of
> what the emotional design discussion is about.
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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>

24 Sep 2009 - 8:19am
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 4:52 AM, Gilberto Medrano <gmedrano at gmail.com>wrote:

>
> And even the motivational power of connotation serves a function in
> design. I just can't separate aesthetics from "usability" that easily.
>
>
And that was my point. Going back to David's original principal of Beauty
over Usability, I too am having trouble seeing the tension between the two.

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool

24 Sep 2009 - 1:14pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I think we can say that the Aesthetic over Usability has some logic holes in
it.

I think I felt that emotion over logic wasn't enough, or did not articulate
well enough in practice and felt that the a over u articulation hopefully
would do that.

So I'll concede for now that the dichotomy fails and we can move on.

I won't concede though that there are areas of aesthetics and emotion that
are not included under even the broadest definition or focus of usability.

-- dave

On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 9:19 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:

>
>
> On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 4:52 AM, Gilberto Medrano <gmedrano at gmail.com>wrote:
>
>>
>> And even the motivational power of connotation serves a function in
>> design. I just can't separate aesthetics from "usability" that easily.
>>
>>
> And that was my point. Going back to David's original principal of Beauty
> over Usability, I too am having trouble seeing the tension between the two.
>
> Jared
>
> Jared M. Spool
> User Interface Engineering
> 510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
> e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
> http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks Twitter: @jmspool
>
>

--
Dave Malouf
http://davemalouf.com/
http://twitter.com/daveixd
http://scad.edu/industrialdesign
http://ixda.org/

24 Sep 2009 - 3:27pm
Adam Korman
2004

I think where the tension lies is that while aesthetics play a role in
usability, there isn't a two-way correlation between aesthetics &
usability. In other words, making something more usable requires
attention to aesthetics, but the reverse isn't true and focusing on
aesthetics alone won't necessarily make something more usable (it may
make it less so). Depending on how you're measuring success, that may
or may not be okay.

One thing that's tricky about this is that while designing and
developing new products (especially software) it can be hard to
distinguish at a glance between things that are usable+beautiful vs.
things that are just beautiful, and it can be easy to get seduced by
the latter and be stuck with something that's not usable.

-Adam

On Sep 24, 2009, at 11:14 AM, Dave Malouf wrote:

> I think we can say that the Aesthetic over Usability has some logic
> holes in
> it.
>
> I think I felt that emotion over logic wasn't enough, or did not
> articulate
> well enough in practice and felt that the a over u articulation
> hopefully
> would do that.
>
> So I'll concede for now that the dichotomy fails and we can move on.
>
> I won't concede though that there are areas of aesthetics and
> emotion that
> are not included under even the broadest definition or focus of
> usability.
>
> -- dave
>
> On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 9:19 AM, Jared Spool <jspool at uie.com> wrote:
>>
>> On Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 4:52 AM, Gilberto Medrano
>> <gmedrano at gmail.com>wrote:
>>>
>>> And even the motivational power of connotation serves a function in
>>> design. I just can't separate aesthetics from "usability" that
>>> easily.
>>>
>> And that was my point. Going back to David's original principal of
>> Beauty
>> over Usability, I too am having trouble seeing the tension between
>> the two.
>>
>> Jared

24 Sep 2009 - 4:46pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 24, 2009, at 4:27 PM, Adam Korman wrote:

> I think where the tension lies is that while aesthetics play a role
> in usability, there isn't a two-way correlation between aesthetics &
> usability. In other words, making something more usable requires
> attention to aesthetics, but the reverse isn't true and focusing on
> aesthetics alone won't necessarily make something more usable (it
> may make it less so). Depending on how you're measuring success,
> that may or may not be okay.

Yah, not sure I buy that either.

I think doing something poorly (whether usability or aesthetic design)
will result in undesirable outcomes.

For a designer (vs. an artist), I think it's clear that they are both
tied together intimately.

If you look at aesthetics from an artistic perspective, instead of
design, I'd agree with you. But I won't give into your notion since
we're talking about design.

(What's the difference between art and design? Art has the full
emotional palette to play with, where as design does not. It is
acceptable -- even desirable -- to create, say, a film that leaves the
viewer angry or deeply sad. It's not acceptable to do that with the
design of a toaster. The only emotion design can play with is delight.)

Jared

24 Sep 2009 - 4:49pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Sep 24, 2009, at 2:14 PM, Dave Malouf wrote:

> I won't concede though that there are areas of aesthetics and
> emotion that are not included under even the broadest definition or
> focus of usability.

I agree with you.

Jared

24 Sep 2009 - 7:06pm
Adam Korman
2004

I'm not advocating doing things poorly, just saying that these things
(usability, aesthetics, beauty, delightfulness) aren't on/off
propositions. And, while they are intertwined, there is some slack. It
is possible (and may sometimes be appropriate) to fiddle with design
elements that make a product more aesthetically pleasing but less
usable (without making it unusable) and vice versa.

I have a Nooka watch that's a little bit hard to read but it is
delightful. If it were more usable, it would lose its appeal. The
default desktop images on Mac and Windows make it harder to read/find
things on the desktop, but they (arguably) make interacting with the
computer more delightful than a solid color would. The switches in the
center console of the Mini Cooper aren't the most usable design for
their functions, but they contribute to the overall delight of that
driving experience. How you measure success for these products is
different than how you would probably measure success for a time punch
clock, a medical device or a forklift (which is not to say that that
aesthetics do not play a role in their usability).

I'm also not trying to argue that there is always a tradeoff between
aesthetics and usability, but that it's not so black and white as more
usable = more delightful = more successful, in part because there is
no single measure of success.

-Adam

On Sep 24, 2009, at 2:46 PM, Jared Spool wrote:

> On Sep 24, 2009, at 4:27 PM, Adam Korman wrote:
>
>> I think where the tension lies is that while aesthetics play a role
>> in usability, there isn't a two-way correlation between aesthetics
>> & usability. In other words, making something more usable requires
>> attention to aesthetics, but the reverse isn't true and focusing on
>> aesthetics alone won't necessarily make something more usable (it
>> may make it less so). Depending on how you're measuring success,
>> that may or may not be okay.
>
> Yah, not sure I buy that either.
>
> I think doing something poorly (whether usability or aesthetic
> design) will result in undesirable outcomes.
>
> For a designer (vs. an artist), I think it's clear that they are
> both tied together intimately.

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