My house is located a few houses down from the train tracks, and the first time my girlfriend came to visit, the train flew by my house.
“Oh my god, did you feel that earthquake?” my girlfriend asked as the train shook the place.
“That wasn’t an earthquake,” I replied. “It was just the train passing by again.”
I told her that the train passes by almost every day. She said she would get sick of living so close to the train tracks.
“You get used to it.”
Have you ever noticed that bad experiences become less annoying as they continue to occur? These annoyances become routine, and we begin to see these “bad experiences” as normal. As a UX Designer, it’s my job to identify, analyze, and improve experiences.
However, noticing bad experiences, even the ones that become routine, are easy. Being able to realize and appreciate “good experiences”; now that’s hard. A professor at my university, Don Norman, said it best.
“Good design is actually a lot harder to notice than poor design, in part because good designs fit our needs so well that the design is invisible,” — Don Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
To gather inspiration for designing great experiences (and to balance my hypersensitivity to annoying experiences), I’ve been closely monitoring the pleasant occurrences in my daily life. Below are a few examples of satisfying experiences.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve finished washing my hands in a public bathroom to have to awkwardly wait in line to dry my hands. While people wait in line for the hand dryer/paper towels, water drips from their wet hands to the floor. Some people work around the wait by simply drying their hands on their jeans; defeating the purpose of washing their hands. Others may simply attempt to shake their hands dry.
However, in a public bathroom at a San Francisco Starbucks, I came across something that offered an even better workaround.
The wash bar combines the faucet, soap dispenser, and air dryer into one convenient place. Not only did I not have to wait in line, I never took my hands away from the sink. It goes without saying that I felt completely confident I wouldn’t be slipping on any water in that bathroom.
Gas Pump button for an attendant/cashier
I. Hate. Gas. Pumps.
Have you ever inserted your debit card to pay for gas, only to see the gas pump screen display “Please see attendant.”? I know I have.
The whole point of paying with a card is so that I don’t have to step away from my car to pay the cashier directly. Now I have to find the pump number, lock my car, and wait in line behind some lady buying the entire gas station convenience store.
At a local Shell station near my house, all of this was corrected with a simple press of a button. Each gas pump has a button that allows you to communicate directly with the attendant/cashier without ever having to leave the pump.
If there’s one thing that I became in college, it’s a habitual coffee drinker. I came across this interesting little coffee shop off of Market Street, San Francisco called CafeX. Everyone is drawn into this shop by the “robot arm” that makes your coffee. However, it was something else that impressed me.
At coffee shops, especially in busy cities, it’s a huge pain to wait for your order. The barista will yell, “GRANDE ICED COFFEE!”, and then ten people will cautiously walk to the counter. Sometimes the shop is so crowded, that you’ll have to wait outside. You’ll walk in a few times to search among the several dozen drinks on the counter to search for the one with your name, only to realize your drink hasn’t been made yet.
CafeX makes excellent use of text message notifications to alleviate all of these problems. After placing your order on one of their POS systems, you will get a text message with your place in line and a follow-up text when your drink is complete. The follow-up text also includes a pickup code, so you’ll never have to worry about picking up another customer’s Grande Iced Coffee.
If there’s anything that my career in UX has given me, it’s a mindfulness towards the many experiences around me. In every moment, there’s an experience to be had. Experiences are not limited to your cell phone, tablet, or computer. Once this is realized, a whole world of experiences opens up to you.
“Design is everywhere. From the dress you’re wearing to the smartphone you’re holding, it’s design.”
— Samadara Ginige, Designer and Developer.