Written by Alex Struck – iX Coding ’14, University of Virginia
Now working with Mckinsey & Company
If you’re anything like me you often meander about your days getting repeatedly trolled by inanimate objects. Take, for instance, my shower head, which is conveniently aimed nowhere even remotely near the massive porcelain container built for the sole purpose of holding the water that comes out of it. So, instead of enjoying a hot shower to begin my day, I am pelted by ice-cold water spewing everywhere but the bathtub. Terrorizing shower heads, confusing door handles, excessively elaborate power converters, and poorly placed light switches are just a few things that often make me the feel like the butt of some cruel joke put on by the international manufacturing community. Such instances make me wonder,”Am I really so incompetent as to be regularly fooled by such general, everyday objects?” I won’t refute that thought entirely; however, shouldn’t their nature alone as such common things demand that they are practical, simple, and intuitive? While some may prefer their surroundings to resemble a MOMA exhibit, I, for one, much prefer things that just work like you’d expect them to work.
All to often, people mistake design as making things look fancy. As the late Steve Jobs put it, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” I had heard this quote before, but I never truly understood it until I walked out of my first iXperience UX workshop.
We spent a majority of the class brainstorming extreme cases of people who might use our product and ensuring that the our application’s interface and features would be suitable for every persona. It is important to consider, for instance, that our site might be used equally by experienced engineers and retired art teachers alike — the trick is making sure each group walks away with equally fulfilling experiences. Initially, it was so easy to get carried away with complex, unnecessary features, but I soon realized that the more direct you are in addressing the problem, the more effective your solution will be. I have learned that design is so much more than making things look pretty; it is understanding that every object carries semantic meaning far beyond pure aesthetics and using that meaning to communicate with users.
I am by no means an expert, but my time at iXperience has taught me to recognize design’s vital role not just in web development, but in my everyday life. So maybe, although my shower head has had — and will probably continue to have — the last laugh, I shouldn’t feel so bad after all.