For those of you that fight the good fight everyday.
Figuring out how people will react to your site or product is only one part of what is important. What will they do AFTER they leave your site? Will they talk about it? Will they come back? If you were to ask them what they remember about your product a week later what will they say?
What did your customer remember after using your product? Will they share their memories with others? Designing great products for people means ensuring three kinds of memorable moments to happen.
Do your users remember your product or service? What do they think of when they do? How long are those memories of your product or service going to last? Are these people likely to remain as loyal customers?
These questions of user memory matter as much as questions of user experience. The goal is to build long-term relationships with people who love your product, yet product designers spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on fleeting moments of present experience without considering which ones will have the greatest impact that stands the test of time.
When you consider that most of your users will remember just a few moments from their initial experience with a product, you can see the scale of the opportunity for focusing on the craft of designing and engineering for memorable moments. These memories determine how users think about the products they’ve used, what they’ll tell other people about those products, and how they’ll recall the products in the future when thinking about using the products again. Let’s take a closer look at how people remember.
Right Brain is Right Now
Meet a user’s right brain. It’s the brain that interacts with a product right now, and again now, and once again just now. The right brain is actively experiencing the present moment, taking in all sorts of sensory input together, moving through the product in moments that last for one, two, or three seconds each. It thinks in pictures and acts on intuition and drives moment-by-moment decisions.
A whole host of tools such as eye tracking, heuristic evaluation, and direct observation let product designers watch the right-brain user in action and find rich insights that help smooth user movement through the product experiences.
The right brain is a crucial part in creating memorable moments. The peak experiences of the right brain will travel over to left brain through a right-to-left handoff. The left brain will organize these peak experiences into a potential memory.
Left Brain Takes the Leftovers
Here’s a user’s left brain. It’s taking the handoff from right brain one item at a time, nice and neat. It approaches things methodically, is all about the past and the future, and loves arranging things into patterns. It thinks in words and rationalizes the decisions the right brain wants to make.
The tool chest of UX design mostly focuses on analytical means of helping the left side of the brain do what it wants (information architecture, design patterns, analytics, etc.). But we tend to neglect the left brain’s craving for memorable moments.
The remembering left brain holds onto memorable transitions and peak moments. It’s heavily influenced by the way things end. Behavioral economist Daniel Kahnmann argues that endings are one very important element we don’t attend to nearly enough. They can ruin an entire experience or save a bad experience by adding a positive spin to the end.
Turn Experience Into Memory
Kahnmann’s work, and research in the field and behavioral economics generally, show that there are three kinds of experience capable of turning the immediate, present experience (experience-in-the-moment) into a potent memory. These three types of experience provide a framework for the design and engineering of more memorable products.
Giving users one sensation and then transitioning to another causes them to experience change. Providing a visceral effect that signals one thing ending and another beginning you help natural left- and right-brain triggers to fire and a memory to form.
Face Time on iPhone: That initial call transition to the high quality video of the person on the other side is extremely memorable. This is something you’ll be mentioning to your coworkers the next day.
Google Maps: Remember the first time you entered your address into Google Maps and clicked “Street View”? That transition from a 2D map to a 3D video like image of your house is forever ingrained in your mind now.
Photoshop: Think back to the very first time you Photoshoped yourself into a funny picture. Remember the transition from the original to the photoshoped image? People remember this moment so well that “photoshop” is now used as a verb in ordinary day to day conversations.
TurboTax: Remember how you put some numbers into a form and saw your tax return from the government jump up and go from red to green? That transition is how you remember this product.
Each of these interactions was memorable and reinforced the core value of each product. When was the last time you considered how specific changes and transitions in your product impact what people remember about it?
2. ‘Wow’ Moments
Thinking about ‘wow’ moments forces you to acknowledge that very little of what you create for a user will ever be remembered. They will, however, remember the peak experiences they have and refer back to them to sum up their feelings about your product. At the end of the day, when you strip away all the detail, what are the ‘wow’ moments you’ve left your users with?
Zappos: Ever order shoes at 6pm on Zappos.com thinking it’ll take at least three days to get them and then actually get them the next day? Wow! Imaging how many people you’d tell about that experience.
Wii Controller: Remember the first time you played baseball on Nintendo Wii? How hard did you swing the controller? How many people did you tell about it? This is what you think about when try to remember the Wii.
TiVO: Remember fast forwarding through commercials for the first time on TiVO? Remember recording TV shows when you were away? How many times did you tell others about that?
Apple: Ever shake your iPod nano and notice that is changed to the next song in queue? Wow! You just unlocked a new feature. This makes you wonder what else this thing does which you don’t know about. Each of these gives a user a story-worthy moment they are likely to pass along to friends and family and readily remember when deciding whether to return.
It’s so easy to close a browser tab or window that we rarely think of the very last impression we leave users with once they’re done with our site. But endings can be remarkable or disastrous. They can put a positive spin on an otherwise negative experience or take a good experience and ruin the whole thing.
- Good ending: You setup a nice visual goal in Mint.com and end your session knowing that it’s there and you can measure your progress against it. Later on when you meet your goal you get a nice “You have met your goal!” email with a great visual. You will surely remember these moments.
- Bad ending: You setup a nice visual goal in Mint.com and never see any confirmations. It’s hard to check your progress. You never get any confirmation that you have fulfilled your goal.
- Good ending: You buy your airline ticket on Delta’s website and get the itinerary right on your smartphone.
- Bad ending: You are ready to buy your airline ticket on Delta’s website. You fill out all the details and in the middle of the transaction you get a “Forbidden 404” error. You now don’t know whether you were charged or not. You’re lost.
- Good ending: You ask a question on Yahoo! Answers, get quick answers and select the best answer as winner. At the end you are happy to get the information you needed.
- Bad ending: After one week of asking your question on Yahoo! Answers you get very open-ended responses that don’t answer your question. You probably won’t be coming back to the site again.
This sounds like every web design project I’ve ever been asked to do.
It was posted on Usability Counts by Patrick Neeman at:
I had this on a previous blog, and that blog’s not around anymore. I figured it’s worth keeping around. By the way, I have no idea of who the author is.
Dear Mr. Architect:
Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.
Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don’t have nearly enough insulation in them).
As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminum, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminum, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)
Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.
To insure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you make.
Please don’t bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpet.
However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.
Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours.
While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has. I advise you to run up and look at my neighbor’s house he constructed last year. We like it a great deal. It has many features that we would also like in our new home, particularly the 75-foot swimming pool. With careful engineering, I believe that you can design this into our new house without impacting the final cost.
Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.
You must be thrilled to be working on as an interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can’t happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.
PS: My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I’ve given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can’t handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.
PPS: Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.
I have been researching different open source programs that I can develop different projects on. I decided to download Aptana and have enjoyed the interface which seemed intuitive to me.
I am not really interested in becoming a designer ‘per se’ nor do I want to be a programmer of applications… but there is a crossover area of user interface/instructional design/web design that I feel is being addressed by these IDE/SDK solutions. I’m pretty excited about the ability to develop, research and continue to push the projects forward using the same files, definitions and suites.