Thursday, February 13, 2014

Experiencing Interaction '14

Interaction '14 logoLast week I visited Interaction ’14 which was held in Amsterdam. Interaction is the annual interaction design conference built around a global community. As User Experience Expert I attended several Computer Human Interaction conferences before, but never this one. And I must say it was a very inspirational experience.

Context influences perception
One of the key takeaways was that context influences perception. This was shown in the talk by Bernard Lahousse (Partner at He stated that the perception of food changes by the context in which it is served. To prove this, he asked a volunteer on stage and let him rub a rough object and simultaneously taste a drink, a minute later this subject had to taste another drink while rubbing a soft stuffed animal. The subject stated that the 1st drink tasted sharp/bitter and the 2nd drink more creamy/sweet. In fact he drank the same drink twice. So a tactile context influences perception of food.
The same goes for a bottle of wine you take home with you after a great holiday in Greece, because it tasted so well in a Greek tavern after a day of sunshine in Mediterranean air. Drinking the wine at home on a drizzling Saturday evening is perceived totally different.

The message of this talk matches very well with the talk by By Thomas K├╝ber (Design lead at Groupon) and Christian Drehkopf (User Experience Evangelist and Mentor) in which they stated that we, as interaction designers, should not design for devices but “we should deliver experiences that create superb value for the users in their personal situation/context”.

Design motivation and curiosity
In order to inspire users to use the applications or products we design, we have to motivate users and make them curious. At Interaction ’14 there were 2 talks which gave some insight in how to do this.

There was Ellis Bartholomeus (Game- & Design consultant). She explained that motivation can be designed via play. To play you need a game (= the definition of the rules and goals) and a player (= the person interacting). To motivate the player to play the game, the player needs to feel safe and trust the game. The game should be hard to play, but not too hard. If the player barely completed the level, he will be curious about himself in the next level and be very loyal to play it again. A player will be motivated by a game if it contains wonderment, engagement, frustration, reward, surprise, irritation, freedom competence and joy.

Jan Willem Huisman (founder of IJsfontein Interactive Media) talked about how “curiosity and playfulness are deeply embedded in our mind and feed the urge for learning and exploring”. Users need structure, and must always feel in control.  By nature users also are curious and motivated and these characteristics should be fed by the applications/product they use. Curiosity is the urge to fill the information gap and curiosity can be designed among others by:
  • leaving room for experiments
  • telling what to expect and then hiding it
  • creating violation of expectations
  • creating a sequence with an unknown ending
  • introducing novelty
  • introducing information that is possessed by others.
  • creating collaborative curiosity
However, the user should always be in control. “If we take control of the user, we kill curiosity” says Huisman.

Onlyness & Design Loneliness
I attended two talks pleading that good user experience design always involves a team.
Tash Wong (independent product designer) talked about Onlyness by which she means the fact that “we all have our own perspective and own unique feminine or masculine point of view from which we design. We are social engineers that design for behavior and communication.” To be able to design products/applications for others we need empathy and look at things from different points of view. Tash Wong developed a method containing a set of 16 cards which is designed to help UX designers better articulate their perspectives and priorities. The cards can be used to communicate the direction for a project, figure out why we do, what we do, or generate new ideas and then ‘Think Bigger to Make Better’.

Then there was Christopher Noessel (Managing Director at Cooper) talking about Design Loneliness and ‘Pair Design, Why You Need It’. In Agile developing software development pair programming is common. In UX design working in pairs also leads to better results. What you need is a pair of 2 designers: a generator (who generates ideas and sketches) and a synthesizer (who analyses and connects). Co-working like this results in a better design, a more efficient way of working and a happier team. While co-working like this, 3 rules should be taken into account:
1. There can only be one marker in the room
2. Ideas should be visualized, not only talked about
3. Feedback is given (mainly by the synthesizer)
    - What’s good
    - Questions?
    - Suggestions for improvement 

At Vennster we already work like this and from experience I can tell that it works.

Last week I have been listening to many experts in the field of interaction design and I gained a lot of inspiration which I definitely can use in the projects I’m currently working on as a User Experience Consultant for Vennster and in the ones I will be working on in the future.
If you want to read more about the lectures given at Interaction ’14 just visit their site