On deprivation and user experience

In the book, “Experience Design: Technology for All the Right Reasons” by Marc Hassenzahl (2010), there’s a section labeled, “Do needs have different priorities?” Below is last paragraph of that,

“Identifying situations, which imply the systematic deprivation of a need, is an important starting point for Experience Design. It is difficult to “sell” an experience of a certain type to somebody, who is already saturated. However, the true challenge for Experience Design is to fulfill needs without making this too obvious.” (Hassenzahl, 2010)

For some reason, this paragraph made think quickly of

  • Issues that I’ve experienced as educator and the possible relation between saturation and learning experiences,
  • the relevance of contrast in design and its use as a mechanism to avoid saturation,
  • and the connection between the use of a particular design and the so-called north-south in the sense that
    • even though the deprivation of needs occurs worldwide, it is likely that they result different for all the people or regions in the world,
    • and how that might imply that a design
      • just cannot guarantee a uniform user experience at all, or
      • it is important for any design to leave enough room for the users to adapt it and thus support the creation of a meaningful user experience.

A small but powerful paragraph from my perspective.

Definition of “an experience-oriented approach”

Below, there is an extract (part of the introduction) from the paper “Experience-Oriented and Product-Oriented Evaluation: Psychological Need Fulfillment, Positive Affect, and Product Perception” by Hassenzahl, Wiklund-Engblom, Bengs, Hägglund, and Diefenbach (2015).

Sometimes I feel that we have diluted the notion of UX. However, this text reminds me that academia is there for the study and examination of phenomena, including the so-called UX, and that a good aspect of academic work is providing coherent and robust (based on previous research and studies) concepts and methods. What caught my attention from this paper is how it defines “experience-oriented approach” and includes the concepts of emotion, meaning, and dynamic story.


“Accordingly, Hassenzahl (2010) argued to put “experience before the product” (p. 63), which requires rethinking what technology actually is, why it matters, and what its intended effects are (Forlizzi & Battarbee, 2004; Hassenzahl, 2010; Hassenzahl & Tractinsky, 2006; McCarthy & Wright, 2004). As opposed to a task-oriented approach, the experience-oriented approach focuses on the personal, subjective side of interaction with a product, understanding interaction as a dynamic story, able to create emotions and meaning. Admittedly, we are far from a common accepted definition of what user experience could or should be (Law, Roto, Hassenzahl, Vermeeren, & Korte, 2009) and experience research can be biased and sub-optimal (Bargas-Avila & Hornbæk, 2011). But experience is at the heart of the emerging postmaterialistic, experiential society (Schulze, 1992) and economy (Pine & Gilmore, 1999). Technology firms can hardly afford to ignore it (Hassenzahl, 2011).

In addition to changes in how to think about or even design technology, a focus on experience suggests reconsidering the models and assumptions underlying well-accepted approaches to evaluation. So far, the “product” is often quite narrowly understood as the tangible set of materials it is made of (e.g., screens, keys, buttons, knobs, windows, sliders) and evaluation focuses on those material aspects. An experience-oriented perspective, however, acknowledges that people foremost create meaningful and memorable stories through interacting with a product. These stories become in fact a part of the product and in turn serve as a basis for a more explicit product evaluation. In other words, if asked about aspects of a product, such as its perceived usefulness or the quality of certain features, people will likely probe their memory for experiences they have had and then base judgments upon a particular or a collection of remembered moments. This process is so pervasive that it even works with imagined experiences (Rajagopal & Montgomery, 2011).

This calls for an extended perspective on evaluation, including products and experiences, as well as a better understanding of how people derive judgments from recollected experiences…
…[W]e define an experience (Forlizzi & Battarbee, 2004) as a retrospectively constructed personal narrative, based on feelings, thoughts, and actions remembered from a collection of moments…”

(emphasis added)



Online resources about research and for a PhD dissertation

This is a personal post about online resources that talk about conducting research. I expect this list to be organic, and this is for me to not forget while I’m working on my (HCI + design) dissertation. However, I hope it’s helpful for you too!

This is a personal post about online resources that talk about conducting research. I expect this list to be organic, and this is for me to not forget while I’m working on my (HCI + design) dissertation. However, I hope it’s helpful for you too!

Please, if you know about a cool resource that needs to be added to this list, let me know! I’m @omitzec on Twitter!

Inspiration: PhD dissertations in HCI and Design

Resources for applying to an academic position

Participatory Design: making, telling, and enacting.

“Design participation is an evolving practice of making, telling and enacting. The iterative flow of events between these activities is essential, not only for participation to occur naturally, but for participation to occur with ease and with joy. When we can fully engage people’s minds, hearts and bodies in imagining and expressing future situations of use, we can be assured that they have an opportunity to influence future ways of living, learning and being.”


* Eva Brandt, Thomas Binder and Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders. Routledge Handbook of Participatory Design (Routledge International Handbooks) (p. 176). Taylor and Francis. 2012.

Schematic UI and Car Controls

In a previous post I commented about some examples of flat design for user interfaces (UI) and about the prominent use of the circle—as the basic widget component in such design. Later, I found this novel user interface design for car controls proposed by Matthaeus Krenn.

Video of the UI in action:

From my perspective, this is a great example of how Information Design and HCI/UX Design overlap. In his proposal, Krenn attempts to integrate a gesture-based interaction with a low cognitive load interface. As we observed from the video and images below, he seeked to visually synthesize the information and make the information as least intrusive as possible—for the driving experience.

Schematic UI for car control by Mathaeus Kreen

Schematic UI of car control by Mathaeus Krenn

Schematic UI of car control by Mathaeus Krenn

Schematic UI of car control by Mathaeus Krenn

As we observe from his proposal, the circle is the basic visual unit for this interface. Because of my interest not on flat design but in finding new ways to represent information within UI, I want to understand better what is the design rationale behind these UIs and on what extent they participate in the paradigmatic shift regarding interaction. By observing Krenn’s proposal in conjunction to my previous post, I have the following comments:

  1. The circle seems to be the best shape to represent a manipulable object—within a flat screen—when considering a gesture-based interaction. As I mentioned before, I conjecture that our experiences, in relation to manipulating spheroids since we’re born, influence this type of design rationale. That is, to make the connection of the fingers—something physical and tridimensional—with something abstract and flat, we still need to refer to something in the real world. That is, the metaphorical reference.
  2. The effectiveness of the circle as UI relies on its multidimensionality. The circle not only properly manages time and space due to its geometrical nature. It also creates a connection from the tridimensional world with flat land. Furthermore, it provides a multidimensional means of interaction and information representation for the case of UIs. For instance, for Krenn’s proposal I noted at least four dimensions:
    1. Size (diameter). This is clearly a variable that represents quantity, which goes from zero—the absence of the widget—to the maximum—as wide as we can extend our fingers on the screen.
    2. Tilt. As I observe, the key aspect regarding this variable is having a reference point. When the user decides to tilt the widget, a cognitive model of range is created in the user’s mind at that moment. Yet we may reflect whether the latter adds complexity to the interaction. In this regard, I assume that tilt as an interactive variable is suitable for qualitative range, or ranges that are not require to be that precise. We don’t need that tilting represents a hard/long decision to the user, specially in context of use where the user is saturated by diverse information sources—as it may occur for the case of car controls.
    3. X-value. This variable—that represents values along the horizontal axis—in conjunction with the y-value—vertical axis— determine the center of the circle and hence the current position (x,y) of the widget. What Krenn shows to us is the convenience of decomposing the center into two independent variables. He employs only one axis, but the idea of observing the scale at the side of the screen provides a mental reference for using either on axis or two of them. From Krenn’s video, we can note that setting the origin point (0,0) is critical in terms of both interface and interaction. Krenn’s proposes a good approach by setting this point relative to wherever the user touches the screen at any moment.
    4. Y-value. As it occurs with the x-value, the vertical axis can be used to represent another quantity. In this way the user can set the value of two variables at the same time. Nevertheless, as I’ve experienced with Photoshop for iOS, it’s frustrating to deal with different quantities due to the sensitivity of the screen (or lack thereof) and a finger. As Krenn comments in his video, the design should take in account this issue and validate the interactions. One idea that came to my mind is snapping to values that makes sense. In Krenn’s proposal, the employment of the vertical axis only, in addition to rationale behind the increments/decrements according to the function/velocity of fingers, contribute to validate the interactions in this UI.

I get excited by observing design proposals as the one from Krenn. As I stated before, I think that Information Design plays a key role in the shift of any interactive paradigm. As designers, we should be conscious that we not only interact with products/design since the moment we wake up, but also we consume/interact information by means of our senses. Because of the latter, I remark that is difficult to see the actual boundaries between information and interface. Hence, representing information in a usable fashion and make it part of an interactive aesthetic experience is something really hard. Yet it represents to me a critical aspect that HCI/UX designers should pay more attention and recognize the implications of a matter where form & function cannot be practically detached.

A question to you for reflection purposes:
How would you visually/sensorially redesign all the information you’ve consumed/interact with since you woke up this morning?