Yesterday I read a short post from the Design Mind Blog at frog design, it got me thinking about experience design. With the IxDA conference coming up, now seems like a good time to weigh in on the subject. In the frog post, the author mentions giving a talk to Ron Wakkary’s students titled Experience Design is a Bunch of Horse-Shit (click for slides). No matter what your perspective, the post is worth a read. Also, the recent  Interactions Magazine article mentioned in the piece is worth checking out (though you’ll need a subscription to get the whole story).

Here’s my take on experience design and experience strategy. This comes from extensive conversations with the folks at Adaptive Path, most notably  Brandon Schauer, and Jesse James Garrett. Here’ the illustration I created to try and explain how they work together, if you click on the illustration you can see a larger version:


What I like about this diagram is that it shows that experience design must work in conjunction with strategy. The two disciplines are shown in a double-helix, like DNA, to remind us that breakthrough experiences put people at the center of the design process. I should also note that strategy is focused on value, while design is focused more on making the engagement compelling.

Jon Kolko’s slide deck includes the following text:

“The assumption that designers control situations leads to self-delusion and also the delusion of clients. Manhattan’s office building plazas – populated by bums, prostitutes, and ambulatory psychotics – are built from architects’ models made credible with the aif of nicely dressed figures sitting still, admiring the fountain and generally making the scale of the building look tolerable. The trouble is that people don’t behave like the cardboard people in architect’s models, because what the cardboard people don’t do is behave.”

I think this is a wonderful point, and I’m in complete agreement. However, I’m not sure that proper experience design works this way because it should be focused on how people would actually act in the enviornment through research, ethnography, and testing. To put it in the parlance of horses (as Jon has), you can provide the horse with the experience of water, but you can’t know exactly if/how he’ll drink it. That said, there is a whole lot you can do with respect to how the horse discovers the water, how it tastes, how much of it there is, and what happens before/during/after the interaction that can improve the experience. The sum of these influences goes beyond the interaction design itself into the realm of experience design in my view.

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4 Comments to Experience Strategy & Experience Design

  1. Exp design, regardless of the medium comes back to three things: thoroughly undestanding the users; understanding your goals for the interaction; and then creating an experience with the necessary steps that allows those users to accomplish those goals. It’s not magic, but few people/orgs take the time to do it right.

    • admin says:

      Sad, but true. However, as markets become increasingly competitive companies will have to compete more with experience. Experience design is still quite young as a discipline, and it’s hard to say how it will evolve. In many ways, the research components of UX work can benefit marketers …. so who should own that process? This also speaks to the need to break down silos within organizations to allow for greater collaboration on practices like research. Thanks for reading!

  2. Syamant says:

    Hello Roland, This is a good post.

    My observations are as follows

    Experience is about People (consumers ) and delivered by People ( Employees ). The sooner a company understands it, the better the final experience.

    Experience Strategy and Design have to keep both sides of the People story in mind. The implementation of the design is crucially dependent on how well the strategists and designers understand the internal employee experience. Missing out on this and not putting emphasis on this and that too with a long term perspective , would result in sub optimal results.

    Will write more on this… and looking forward to your thoughts..

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