What is Human Experience in Design?

Excerpt from Designing for Human Experience, republished by permission of Polymath Knowledge 25th Nov 2020

designing for

TDP – the design process

IA – information architecture

CA – content author

PD – product design

ID – instructional design

U – usability

A – accessibility

CHI/HCI – computer human interaction

UX – user experience

UXS – user experience strategy

CX – customer experience

UCD – user centered design

HCD – human centred design

SD – service design

DT – design thinking

ST – systems thinking

PX – pervasive experience

IoT – internet of things

DT – digital transformation

AT – agile transformation

OD – organisational design

SA – scaled agile

BA – business agility

human experience

This is a short glossary to cover the now myriad of terminology related to designing for humans. I expect there to be more as time goes on humans do seem to love reinventing the wheel and then renaming it.

TDP – the design process

The design process goes back hundreds of years and really goes back to how humans solve problems. The first annotated materials I can see regarding a process are from Leonardo de Davinci in 1452 – 1519. Personally, I utilise the materials from the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1933 which is incidentally also responsible for the structure of all modern University and College modular learning. It is a fallacy of the human condition that people will constantly rewrap the design process as their design process, this is noted later a few times. The most common components of the design process involve defining the problem, carrying out research (who are the users, how do they think, what is the market, etc.), creating a few solutions, testing those solutions with users, refining the solutions, selecting what gets built (with why and due diligence), build a model, test the model, refine the model, build the product or service, deliver, get feedback, upgrade then start again.

IA – information architecture

Wikipedia describes “Information architecture (IA) is the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design, architecture and information science to the digital landscape. Typically, it involves a model or concept of information that is used and applied to activities which require explicit details of complex information systems. These activities include library systems and database development”. However, this description misses out some essential facts and complexities around the use of the term information architecture.

The Wikipedia description is the European description in the USA until fairly recently an IA was in fact a UX person, confusing I know but an important part of the evolutionary history of the field. A while back I was a member of the Information Architecture Institute in the USA, its focus was information science while the US job market was looking for UX skills.

In my work IA has been focused on Taxonomies and Ontologies to support the creation of context focused navigation including government standards, narratives, search engine optomisation and information schema for content design.

CA – content author

Content authors are professional writers who produce engaging content for use online. One of my friends used to call this work being a Word Smith which is quite accurate given they must reshape words and narrative for each use. Examples would be the use of common English for a general information location or technical English for specific subject audiences. This is also the area where content object models should be created to support the objectives of different personas and outcomes. Certainly, I have created multidimensional content objects to facilitate golden source data systems for six primary audiences in 114 countries for global enterprises. At this sort of scale, the content authors role will be critical to ensure that the content is engaging for each specific audience. This role is often not filled by a professional and dramatically reduces the customer engagement and experience.

PD – product design

Product design is the process the businesses use to blend user needs with business goals to help brands make consistently successful products. Product designers work to optimise the user experience in the solutions they make for their users and they support their brands by making establishing the features and capabilities that are communicated though marketing communications, analyst communities and shareholder engagement.

ID – instructional design

Instructional Design is the systematic development of instructional materials using a focus on how people learn and instructional theory to ensure the effectiveness of instruction. It combines the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It is commonly associated with enabling the completion of complex tasks by humans including anything from white goods installation to rocket systems and everything in between. It requires the ability to think like the intended users and to test the instructional materials with the intended audiences. I will often include the need for an engagement with a content author to set the tone of voice in documentation and create writing guides.

U – usability

The earliest reference I can find to usability is from passenger liner design from the 1940’s describing the usability of corridors for infirmed passengers who may need the use of a wheeled chair. I suspect usability is considerably older than that as a way of thinking about designing for human use. The adoption of this way of working into software solutions is still sadly ongoing, User Experience is the solution side of Usability though many seem unaware of this close connection.

I was a member of Usability Professionals Association UPA which was not at that time interested in the design aspect (solutions to usability problems). As a member I suggested adopting Experience Solutions and that if it did not move forward, I would start a separate organisation to cover that area, thankfully they saw sense and became the UXPA.

A – accessibility

Accessibility is the practice of making pretty much everything accessible though often associated with building, transport or technology access and usage usable by as many people as possible. Often it is associated with a narrow view of people with disabilities, however common things like 50% of all men are colour blind to some degree make the affected group cover most of humanity in some way. Accessibility is therefore more about inclusion and creating pathways to access features, capabilities and opportunities. Accessibility is a Human Right not a nice to have and should be a starting point for all solutions, it also creates benefits to other ways of working by enabling the adoption of mobile devices and people affected by the digital divide with costly access or slow access due to network connectivity.

HCI / CHI – human computer interaction

So there are two terms for the same thing here Human Computer Interaction, the British Computer Society term and Computer Human Interaction, the Association for Computing Machinery (USA), they mean the exact same thing being focused on the Academic and Engineering end of User Experience.

UX – user experience

User experience (UX) is about how a person feels, appropriates, attributes and generally thinks about using a product, system or service. A person’s experience is based in their mind and their emotions and can be established by both actual interaction and reflective (biographical experience) inputs. The current approach to UX is that it is the practical implementation of audience drivers, cognitive acuity, usability standards and accessibility laws with ergonomics (physical, contextual use) and anthropometric (digital behaviours analytics) measures. Creating an integration of business context into user context, to facilitate alignment, transactions and communications. User experience has four core components;

• Research from quantitative data to find out what is the problem or meet a demand
• Research from qualitative data to find out why it’s a problem or meet a demand
• Multiple solutions that may solve the problem or meet a demand
• Validation that it does solve the problem or meet a demand, from users (target audience) business that its sustainable (meeting business strategy and cost/benefits) and technology its possible (often within legacy and technical debt constraints).

There is more about this in the rest of the book.

UXS – user experience strategy

A user experience strategy is the plan and approach for a product or service. UX strategies are focused on mapping the whole user experience both withing the intended product or service ecosystem but also prior to entry and on leaving also. It maps human thinking, choices, impacts and the imposition of technology, policies, legal constraints, financial constraints and in fact anything that either directly or indirectly impacts customers, users, patients or any other term used to define the audience. UX strategies help businesses translate their intended user experience to every touchpoint where people interact with or experience its products or services. User experience strategy has become superseded by Systems Thinking and Service Design which has adopted customer journey mapping often to the exclusion of the wider and more insightful parameters of user experience strategy.

CX – customer experience

In commerce, customer experience is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. It has shaved part of User Experience related to quantitative data to make decisions, unfortunately quantitative based decision making is highly risky as it does not properly define the problem statement and is open to manipulation and bias by the exclusion of outlier data.

UCD – user centered design

User-Centered Design is a framework of processes in which usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks and workflow of a product, service or process are given extensive attention at each stage of the design process.

HCD – human centred design

Human-centered design (ISO standards) is an approach to problem solving (superseding User Centred Design in an attempt to focus on all users not just customers), commonly used in design and management frameworks that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.

SD – service design

Service Design has superseded User Experience Strategy which has adopted customer journey mapping often to the exclusion of the wider and more insightful parameters of user experience strategy. Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its users.

DT – design thinking

Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic and practical processes by which design concepts are developed. It is not in fact a design process it is an ideas elicitation and prioritisation process for executive management to properly focus the efforts of their organisations. The double diamond created by the United Kingdom Design Council, unsurprisingly others claim to have invented it and they themselves are extending it as an innovation process. It’s worth noting though that design thinking is not much different from the design process (though often excluding UX) it just has a nice graphic.

ST – systems thinking

Systems theory is the interdisciplinary study of systems. A system is a cohesive conglomeration of interrelated and interdependent parts which can be natural or human-made. Systems thinking is another divergence from User Experience Strategy a lesser part like Service Design that is reinventing the wheel for a new generation of beginners.

PX – pervasive experience

Pervasive is an evolutionary UX that enables ubiquitous Open IoT Ecosystems through Human Centered Design HCD. Hands in the air I’ve done the same thing of defining by output a different focus for user experience strategy. Pervasive experience is essentially user experience strategy that involves IoT, AI and blockchain. Regardless of the marketing around these technologies they have major adoption issues, helpful like a hammer but not a humans first choice for activity, interaction or transactions, at least not yet.

IoT – internet of things

The Internet of things describes the network of physical objects “things” that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet. While machine to machine and automation are the driving force the human benefits have yet to be adopted and without pervasive experience they will forever just be seen as job takers rather evolving human living bringing us all into Smart Living.

DT – digital transformation

Digital transformation is the adoption of a new engagement philosophy with customer at the centre, a new way to communicate and get responses. It is often incorrectly focused on the adoption of digital technology that transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes. When it should be the point of change to abandon unnecessary, overly complex and damaging customer (staff, vendor, clients) experiences. For example, when the United Kingdom Government first adopted digital technologies like the world wide web to allow citizens to do their taxes, they mandated that the online experience should be an exact copy of the paper forms and that there should be no additional support provided through calculators or guidance. This has now thankfully changed yet the moving of pointless and unnecessarily complex experiences online or into software is still common in commercial companies and many countries governments, for example the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is truly horrific.

AT – agile transformation

Agile transformation is an extension of the Agile Manifesto https://agilemanifesto.org/ beyond teams, into teams of teams or slices of organisations it relates to designing the flow of work that support both customer and business values, through organisational design and for me is a natural progression of user experience strategy. I have certainly been involved in the application of agile in transformations since 2004 and it was my impetus for adopting agile.

OD – organisational design

Organisational design is finally moving on from the four standard structures into far more dynamic ways of working where staff are not just a resource but an impetus for new directions and opportunities. Classically organizational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, coordination, and supervision are directed toward the achievement of organizational aims. In my work organisational design is focused in agile transformation or the building of new capability, divisions or entire global companies, a slice at a time.

SA – scaled agile

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a set of organization and workflow patterns intended to guide enterprises in scaling lean and agile practices. It was developed by and for practitioners, by leveraging three primary bodies of knowledge: agile software development, lean product development, and systems thinking. It has become a catch all for frameworks and transformation, it is not proven to work in its entirety although many components work really well.

BA – business agility

Business agility refers to the capability of a business or its components to rapidly respond to a change by adapting to maintain stability. It is linked to Agile Transformation, Organisational Design but is more holistic than many Agile Transformations which until 2018 mainly focused on changing how Technology worked, it now includes every aspect and skillset that impacts customer and business outcomes and is focused on adding value not completing work.

So when reading the book and you read any of the job titles above please just swap them out for “designing for human experience”.

Designing for Human Experience Paperback on Amazon

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1838237011
Japan https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/1838237011
Italy https://www.amazon.it/dp/1838237011
Spain https://www.amazon.es/dp/1838237011
France https://www.amazon.fr/Designing-Human-Experience-Karl-Smith/dp/1838237011
Germany https://www.amazon.de/Designing-Human-Experience-Polymath-Band/dp/1838237011
USA https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Human-Experience-Polymath-Smith/dp/1838237011
UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1838237011/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_zGXMFbME0P72Q

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I don’t want to live in America but I do want to work there

One of the things that should have become apparent by now is that no one needs to be physically based in a location to work there. In 2020 the USA is one of the most dangerous places on the planet to live. When considering the current Covid19 pandemic and thinking of the USA all I can think of is a Zombie Apocalypse. But for work the USA has some of the most interesting and innovative companies in the world and that’s where I want to work.

Living in Europe I’m used to being safe, our politicians have attempted to deal with Covid19, some better than others, our rule of law is dependable and relatively evenly applied in fact I know lots of Americans who have chosen to live here instead of America for that reason. Unfortunately, in the UK some advisors think you can negotiate the truth with a virus, you can’t. This had led to some very poor choices that has cost the lives of many citizens. But at least our police are highly accountable, nationally and locally, the use of firearms is strictly controlled, and they are trained to de-escalate situations. In every area of society there are criminals who seek to use the power they have to serve their own ambitions, but while our society evolves their crimes eventually catch up with them.

So, if your company is looking for an innovative thinker, passionate about the customer, with business acumen and over 25 years of professional experience in e-commerce, digital transformation, customer transformation, consultancy, business agility, solutions, data architecture and automation let me know, I’m available. If you’re a European Company that fits this then let me know, I’m not moving anywhere.

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