Tag Archives: User Experiences

Third Wave: Beyond User Experience to the Purist Experience

More librarians are taking an interest in exploring how user experience design, coupled with a design thinking mindset, can help them deliver a better library experience to their community members. This is evidenced by the increase in libraries adding user experience librarian positions and even UX units, going beyond user satisfaction surveys and into ethnographic research to truly understand the library experience from the user perspective. There is also an increase in the number of librarians writing articles about UX and giving presentations on related topics. Expect to see more conferences and workshops based on UX themes. This trend is moving the library profession beyond perceiving UX only as a method to improve the online experience to acknowledging that it applies, perhaps more importantly, to the total library experience.

As they grow more interested in adopting UX approaches, I hope librarians will take time to read and understand how UX evolved into a recognized dimension of competition in multiple industries. For example, reading Pine and Gilmore’s seminal work The Experience Economy, would offer perspective on how industry moved from competing on price and convenience to competing on the quality of the experience (e.g., convenience store coffee vs. starbucks). This demonstrated that people (not everyone but many) would be willing to pay a premium for a better experience – and that could be defined by taste, treatment, ambience, etc. The end result was to design an experience that exceeded expectations, created meaning and loyalty and gave the consumer a memorable experience that sparked the consumer’s desire to repeat it.

We may now be moving beyond the experience economy into the “purist economy.” Today, there are only a few industries exploring this territory and there are limited numbers of consumers who seek out this level of experience. More than a few experts believe that what is a small market today could be the next wave on which service and product industries compete, outdoing each other to deliver the purist possible experience. According to an article titled “Brewing the Perfect Cup” by Danielle Sacks in September 2014 issue of Fast Company, the third wave is a movement of purists who are committed to taking every part of an experience to the level of obsession with quality, uniqueness (not just being different – more than that) and quite possibly an elitism that sets the purist apart from the mere aficionado.

Just as Starbucks succeeded in moving coffee lovers from convenience store brands and office coffee pots to $4 expressos and frappucchinos, a new generation of firms want to tap into those coffee lovers and convert them into purists. One of those companies is called Joyride and its mission is to spread:

…coffee religion. It is one of a rising army of startups seizing on the financial opportunity to convert Keurig, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks drinkers into coffee purists. Known as the Third Wave, this movement started a decade ago by a splinter group of true believers who approach every part of the coffee life cycle with meticulous obsession…a cup of black coffee so dimensional, they believe, that there’s no need to pollute it with milk or sweeteners–and so valuable that it can earn a price tag as hefty as $7 a cup.

The article points to this as a growing food trend noting that “yogurt, chocolate, and juice have made this leap from commodity to mass delicacy”. Want to offend a coffee purist? Put milk in your java. One purist likened it to putting ketchup on a steak. No wonder some coffee drinkers regard purists as elitists or snobs – but snobs who will pay an even higher premium for an even better experience. And as they have their third wave experience, purists are not apologetic. Rather, they revel in their enjoyment of a higher form of experience.

It’s hard to predict if these third wave experiences will go mainstream or remain limited to a small cadre of purists. The firms bringing the products and services to the marketplace certainly hope they can convince coffee lovers to become purists who can tell the difference between obscure flavors with just a few sips of a black coffee. This movement, to my way of thinking, goes into territory beyond the superuser. The superuser is certainly passionate about a product, and can make the difference between its success or failure, but enjoying a product and discovering new ways to use it is not quite on the same as the purist’s insistence on only the best and being willing to pay a significant premium to get it.

Offering a higher quality experience can also have the affect of turning a community member into a more passionate library user. There are examples from other service providers that benefit from designing experiences for the passionate people who really thrive on what is being offered – usually something that cannot be easily obtained through the Internet. It may be the person in your community who eagerly anticipates new and unique acquisitions, seeks out historic artifacts found in special collections and archives or who appreciates cultural programming. We lack the capacity to reach every person in our communities. It may be wise to avoid expending effort to attract those who will never connect with librarians or who may believe that libraries no longer offer value to the community. Passionate library user. Yes, we can reach them and design experiences to create a bond. Purist library user? While it would no doubt be advantageous to have a core of such committed supporters, it is also possible that an obsessive community member could have a much higher level of expectation – and demands – than most libraries could meet.

It will be interesting to see if the third wave experience has a significant impact on our coffee consumption behavior. If it does, and there is evidence that a segment of any market desires the purist experience, expect to see similar types of movements in other services and products. Before Starbucks none of us would have thought it possible that people would routinely go out of their way for coffee beverages at double or triple the price. Now no one thinks twice about it. Never underestimate the power of the human desire for unique and memorable experiences, and where it will lead.

Small Details of the Library Experience May Matter the Most

There’s a new book garnering attention because it brings a new perspective to design thinking. What makes it stand out is that it’s a really small idea. Micro-small in fact. That certainly has a refreshing appeal when what usually gets hyped are really big ideas. This approach may be of value to librarians in helping them to think small – and we’re unaccustomed to hearing that sort of advice. I have to admit to being guilty myself of suggesting that it’s the big idea that helps our libraries get attention. If we intend to design a library experience based on achieving totality, it makes sense to consider all of the individual, micro-design elements that ultimately contribute to the total experience.

In his new book Microinteractions Dan Saffer encourages us to focus more on the small details that add up to the bigger moments of our user experience. In other words, the success of the outcome of the product or service is in the details. The microinteractions are the small elements of the overall process or service that can determine its unique features that make for a great experience. Microinteractions include functions such as silencing a cell phone, filling out a webform as part of a larger process (e.g., requesting an article from the library), or any small component of a larger experience. Saffer shares a good story about how a cell phone alarm ruined a concert because its owner didn’t know that the phone issued a time alarm even when set to silent mode. The design of that feature is perhaps a good one but its existence, or how to override it, certainly wasn’t clear to the phone’s owner.

There are four parts to the microinteraction:

1. A trigger that initiates it; something the user has to do such as pressing a switch or choosing an option.

2. A rule that governs the operation of the trigger; when a light switch is turned to on (the trigger) the rule states that the light stays on until the switch is set to off.

3. Feedback that the rules generate; visuals, sounds or sensations that let you know the rule is operational – such as the light that goes on when the switch is flipped or the visual cue that informs you the form was submitted.

4. Loops and modes that make up the microinteraction’s metarules; think of them as smaller helper functions that support the microinteraction, such as a sub-function to change the location for a function that provides a weather report.

As we go about designing different elements of our library services and products how could a better understanding of microinteractions and their part in the success or failure of a more involved experience help us to improve the total library experience. While I imagine that what Saffer mostly has in mind is our experience with interfaces and technology design – and that appears to be the case based on the examples he provides in the (free-to-read) first chapter. What I’d like to contemplate is how we could apply the microinteraction process to various areas of our library operations. For example, try applying it to a face-to-face reference interaction.

First, we need a trigger – something to get the community member to activate the service. As we design the microinteractive pieces, let’s remember delivering a superior experience is the desired outcome. What about something physical, such as a smile, big greeting or eye contact (or all of them) that sends a trigger to signal the initiation of a service process. Second, we need a rule and it should be natural for reference librarians. The rule would state that the librarian stays engaged with the community member until the request for information is resolved. Unfortunately, the micro-design missing in the reference interaction is follow up; we rarely know if the assistance offered actually solved the community member’s need. Third, the feedback generated by the rules would be verbal in nature, with the librarian providing oral feedback to let the community member know how the interaction is proceeding and where it is headed. And fourth and finally, the metarules would focus on demonstrating a research skill as a microfunction that supports the microintereaction.

You might be questioning if this application of Saffer’s microinteraction methods helps us to improve the total library experience. But if we can regard many of our routine activities as microinteractions within a much larger system, you can begin to see how designing each microinteraction in the individual service or product can eventually add up to the totality of the library experience, it makes a difference. It may also be easier to get there by focusing staff energy on the design and effectiveness of each micorinteraction that is incorporated into the total library experience. Perhaps the most valuable outcome from this new book is that it will get us thinking about service interactions – and designing them – in a whole new – and micro-detailed way. That, I think, is why Saffer’s work is sure to gather more attention.

Learn More About DT AND UX With Two New Resources

I first came across an article about user experience (UX) in January 2006. At the time I was doing some research for the book that would become Academic Librarianship by Design. Almost immediately I saw the connection between the two. User experiences could – probably should – be the outcome of a design thinking process. A library user experience, in particular, struck me as a challenging concept. What would that possibly mean for the end-users? What would constitute, to their way of thinking, a great library user experience? Whatever that might be it seemed reasonable that design activities could help to produce a much improved library user experience.

Since then the book has been completed and I’ve gone on to read many more articles about DT and UX, and I continue to explore, with you, how these two practices can be applied to benefit our libraries. Though they provide no immediate answers, and perhaps might be best consumed by someone new to both DT and UX, I’m going to recommend that you look at the following two new resources.

First, take an hour and watch a highly informative video about UX. “Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services For an Uncertain World” features Brandon Schauer and David Yerba, two designers from the firm Adaptive Path. In this Google Talks video presentation they share the key concepts from their new book of the same title. I took away a couple of ideas. First, these folks excel at keeping their explanations simple. User experience – that’s all the user cares about. The experience is the product. Do they enjoy themselves, do they accomplish what they need to do, and do they manage to do it the way they want – with simplicity? Well, there’s more to UX than that, but that’s a good start. I also like their way of explaining the type of design they bring to the process of developing the user experience – an activity everyone in the organization can embrace no matter what their background. Then they discuss The Long Wow – a Wow experience that repeatedly delivers great delights for the user, is memorable, and impresses. In other words, users remember it and return again for more of the same.  I’m looking forward to reading the book.

But how do you design that type of experience for your library? If you haven’t done much formal reading about design thinking now is a good time to start. And what better way to start than with a basic article about design thinking from one of the masters of the art – Tim Brown the CEO and President of IDEO. The article appears in the just published June 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review (p.85). The article relates the basic concepts of design thinking and why it can provide a better approach to developing human-centered solutions. In particular I like that Brown further elaborates on his explanation of the “three I’s” – Inspiration; Ideation; and Implementation (see the graphic in the article). I had previously heard Brown discuss this in a video presentation, but the graphic in the article provides a good visual representation of the process as it applies to problem finding, user studies, brainstorming, prototyping and solution development. And since those new to design thinking always ask for examples of how it is applied in real life situations, the article contains several case studies to illustrate the application of design thinking.

Even though I’ve been studying these ideas for over two years I continue to be amazed at the great articles and videos that help me to clarifying my thinking about DT and UX, and how these activities and approaches can be applied to the design of better libraries.