Without people, there is no interaction with design. After all—for design objects to be created or used, people must be part of the equation. The more clearly we understand, involve, and consider people in experience design, the more effective and relevant our research and creations will be. As actors in experience design scenes, people are the most difficult to study because they are so complicated.
People do things that make sense. They watch out for danger and turn the lights off when they leave the room. People spend only as much money as they have, and they show up to work on time. People think critically, weigh options, then act on available information. The logic that underpins human decision-making makes sure trains run on time. It means that as designers, we can predict with decent certainty what people will do because they act rationally.
Sometimes, people aren’t so rational. Have you ever decided to stay out late at a party with friends a little later than you should have, and the next day at work was tough because of lost sleep? Perhaps you bought something that cost a little more than you could afford (okay, a lot more). People do things that aren’t logical but are driven by other factors like emotional mood or cultural traditions. People can be irrational—inspired by things that don’t make sense. There’s always a motivation behind these actions, and deciphering those motivations often gives us a peek into how people make meaning of the world around them.
At one moment, people make rational decisions, and the next moment, they do something completely unexpected and unwarranted. That’s what makes researching people fun for experience designers. We can not know what a person is thinking at all times. Philosophy, psychology, and computer science have worked for centuries to figure out how to predict people. Algorithms are getting close, but they’re not quite there. People are elusive and continue to be. It’s hard to define and categorize them. People always surprise.
People are experiencers in experience design scenes. The success of a design is measured by how well they can use it and how effectively it aligns with a person’s needs, values, and preferences. User experiences hinge on if the design is useful, usable, and desirable (Sanders, 1992). When design outcomes also consider experience-level aspects, products, services, and systems can become meaningful, valuable, and even empowering.
Observations can produce descriptions of actors. Designers can document things like physical size, style, and makeup. Actors’ characteristics and behaviors directly define what they are and how they are working. However, they fall short of revealing more profound aspects of who they are, why they are, and their function in experience design scenes.
Click on any of the aspects to learn its role in experience design scenes at the characteristics and behaviors level.
Any participant in an experience design scene. A person, object, or context.
Aspects that describe peoples' selves and relationships.
Ways people move and act.
A person's internal and physical identity.
How long a person has lived.
A person's biological sex.
A person's race based on physical appearance.
A person's sense of their own gender.
A person's physical size.
A person's physical and mental condition.
Ways people relate to others and how they perceive themselves in those relationships.
Emotional and/or romantic attraction to another person.
Ways people are connected to others.
A classification based on a person's social and economic status.
Facts, information, and skills a person has acquired.
A person's distinctive character.
A designer with experience mindset researches and designs with the tangible and the intangible in mind. When researching experience design scenes, these aspects can be targeted using different design research methods. Designing for complete experiences does not neglect these aspects. Instead, products, services, and systems are designed to align with these aspects and consider them as essential drivers for design decisions.
“Seeing” these aspects requires taking different perspectives—putting on a set of “lenses.” Bifocals, a magnifying glass, and a stethoscope enable the viewer to see different things. Explore scenes using each set of lenses to reveal new details about actors in experience design scenes (Gilmore, 2016).
Click on any of the aspects to learn its role in experience design scenes at the experience design level.
Four experience-level themes within experience design scenes.
Aspects of experiences that can be seen using common methods.
Aspects of experiences that are the heart of an actor.
Peoples' worldviews and self-concepts shape the ways they make meaning in different situations.
The bank of words and gestures a person knows and uses.
People during goal-directed activities.
Concentration on the activity at hand.
A way of thinking or feeling about an activity or design object.
What a person believes others will think of them when they perform a behavior.
Competence or skill to complete an activity.
References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.
Gilmore, J. H. (2016). Look: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Observational Skills. Austin, Texas: Greenleaf Book Group Press.
Sanders, E. B.-N. (1992). Converging perspectives: product development research for the 1990s. Design Management Journal, 3(4), 49-54.