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Humane Experiences

“People ignore design that ignores people.”   ― Frank Chimero

It is estimated that a modern user will spend 41% of their life interacting on screen, that is 8000 days or 21 years of one’s life. And it is up to us as designers, developers, agencies and businesses etc. to decide whether to make it monotonous, superficial and robotic or to make it memorable and something that connects on the deep human, emotional and psychological level.

In a way it is no longer a choice, it’s rather a responsibility to have a humane user experience because it not only affects the sales and customer loyalty of a brand, it also affects the mental and emotional health of an individual when they spend so much time interacting with digital products on a screen or why even limit to the screen, to be very realistic?

Now more than ever people have begun to see technology as a crutch especially after Covid19 and subsequent lockdowns. In some interviews I conducted they’re even beginning to see it as an unavoidable evil. And in such times it is so necessary to design products that make people feel empowered by technology not crippled by it. This makes it essential to align business goals to a user interaction that is soulful and humane and much more which we will figure out as we move forward. But a humane experience is a good starting point.

And if we want to do that we might have to start from a renewed or fresh state of mind. We don’t necessarily have to scrap all that works but we don’t even have to keep on making all websites standard bootstrap. We can get rid of such cliches and illustration trends. It is beginning to feel like a nightmare. And sometimes users would love the change, sometimes they won’t but they would remember something new for sure. Once a fellow developer challenged me to design a website without a hamburger menu on mobile. It was a great experience I learned a lot and gave me a very different perspective on how to govern the attention of the user and how to let it melt and flow.

How to get someone absorbed and lost in an interaction with a product. Isn’t that what we all want? To gaze into the eyes of another person, to be wrapped in their arms, to be lost in a drama, to be lost in a conversation, to be one with the beat of the music. Everything from plays and epics to movies and binge-watching Netflix, are opportunities to get absorbed in the present moment. That’s what we need to bring to the table when it comes to user experience. At the same time, we have to be realistic enough to realise that the user won’t stroll on a webpage for 20 minutes to complete a transaction, so there has to be a balance. Also, there’s a moral obligation to not make it too addictive, which is rarely considered. But all such little things make experiences humane. Here is an excerpt from a discussion I had with a friend on social media recently which I want to share. I refer to her as Lani here.

Lani:

I work in media and hear a lot about the ‘customer experience’ or the ‘user experience’? Perhaps shifting the parameters around the language used to describe the ‘user’ is a good place to start. What would the ‘human experience’ look like? Rather than identifying you as a data-driven user, the human experience understands you? Rather than providing people with reasons to engage with and buy said product, the human experience provides a progression of engagement that improves people’s lives? Great article Krupal!

Krupal:

A lot of businesses have teams or individual dedicated to User Experience Design or Human Centred Design but they have it only because their competitors have it.

In truth, most businesses do not understand why it’s valuable to focus on a pleasant and Humane Experience that connects to the customer on a deeper and more human level in each and every interaction that the customer is going to have with the business. Many of the digital products are not even designed to be accessible i.e. people with special needs can’t even access it.

A humane experience could be created or enhanced by using simple things like when you’re not connected to the internet Google Chrome shows you that dinosaur game to keep you engaged, it’s kinda cute and funny. Its a simple thing but you feel cared for and looked after. But it could be a lifesaver if someone is stuck in a confined space and have no signal and they’re a little claustrophobic. It might give them just enough distraction to survive that situation or when you load Amazon they say “Breathe in! Breathe out! instead of “Loading”.

Sometimes changing an image or word or colour of a button or font type or size could significantly shift people’s perception and moods and hence could also potentially improve sales.

This could also be seen in physical products. For example, going in a lift or elevator with a stranger could be uncomfortable but by adding mirrors people get enough distraction to avoid that uncomfortable silence and it also helps. People can adjust their dress or tie or hair one last time to make the perfect first impression as they step out of the lift.

Sometimes it could be quite a complex design challenge that may require the business as a team to contribute to the design. Suppose you’re a writer or an editor you might have many problems, views and ideas that the designer might not even be aware of. Once someone told me to design a website without a menu. So we created an immersive experience in which the user is immersed in what they’re seeing at the moment by giving just enough content and visuals and also subconscious cues to influence them to scroll and as they scroll things unfold like a story.

Generally speaking, instead of creating a humane experience what most companies and designers end up doing is “Usability Testing” which is performed at last to see if the product is usable or not. So the emphasis is on functionality with minimum focus on the experience.

Lani:

Interesting…I was thinking something similar the other day. I was getting an ultrasound for something and found myself staring up and around at stark, clinical white walls and ceiling and thinking ‘this isn’t helping my anxiety. I’m associating this bland, clinical aesthetic with medical procedures and medical settings. I’d love to be looking at some nature or something.’

Krupal:
Exactly! It could significantly improve the experience, make people comfortable and get a better reputation compared to other labs. And most people wouldn’t know why they felt better but they’d recommend that particular medical lab/facility to their mates.

Lani:
You’re right – usability is usually centred around functionality. The next time I’m asked to sense check a new website or product, I’m going to focus on experience instead of functionality when I give my feedback.

And of course, I thanked her for the beautiful in-depth discussion on this topic. And Thank You for reading. Have a flawless day.

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