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Rikke: You may think we are in Russia because of the church behind me, but we are actually in Germany, in Darmstadt. We are here to meet the Professor, Marc Hassenzahl, who is a professor in user experience and experience design. And this is what he is going to tell us about in his home villa in Damster.
So, Marc, what is user experience, experience design as well as experience. It is all related so close, but can you tell us what you think it is?
Marc: I think it is really difficult to take all these different things apart. But let me start with the term user experience. A term I really – I kind of dis - dislike a bit because – because of the focus on usage only and the user and it – you know, it is like as if it would be so closely rooted only in action, but experience is a much broader field, I would say. I would rather like to talk about experiences or experiencing later on and experience design as a way to create that experience.
For me, user experience is the field of study so there happen to be some people in the context of interactive products coming out of the usability community that thought maybe we should change our models a bit and came up - they came up with this word and I think it is called user because usability was always very deeply rooted in usage when people invented that term, you know, it hadn’t been the consumer, but naturally the user. And experience is just – how shall I say, it is just more focus on the user; on his or her psychology, on emotions and stuff like that. So just stressing that we should be even more focused on the user.
Over time, somehow, people started to take that experience term literally and try to explore, you know, what would it mean if we really would design for experience. It is not just take that as a term for denoting more - more closeness to people. I think that started like six or seven years ago, people started to think about what it actually is and applications popped up.
Rikke: So designing with this in mind what - could you take examples of any products?
Marc: Basically I think they are not that much products out there at the moment. I would like to distinguish two different kinds of ways of looking at experience. One is I mean you have something like a moment by moment experience. In that moment you feel somehow, you do something, you think, you and that all that together is like this experience you have in the moment. And this focuses very much on you know, what we do and what we think in a particular moment and focuses also very much on the how. If you use a product on how - how does it feel and how to touch, how is it, does it look like is it in your hands how does it fit and stuff like that.
This is one way of looking at experience and I think a product like the iPhone or the iPod touch with this new way of interacting with the multi touch and physics model in these that is more – that is more catering to this kind of experience. I will prefer calling it the aesthetics of interaction. So for me, it is not really the thing I am after.
Rikke: What are you after?
Marc: I am more after like I think this window the consciousness. The moment by moment experience you have is just three seconds or whatever, it is very, very small. And the most of our time we are working on memories of experience that we have and they are quite different because the moment you experience something you have it and you encode it somehow in your memory and you try to make sense of it, to create meaning you forget things. What you do is you construct a story of usage and it has a beginning and end, has a structure and this is what you actually remember, this is what you communicate to other people, this is the reality you had with the product. This is nothing new. That is actually how we – how we as how we as humans define ourselves. We even have our own memory system for that, episodic memory that stores these stories of our lives. And as long as we interact with certain kind of technology we create those stories as well.
This is my idea of experience. So if you put in more academically then the difference between experiencing I would say and - and experience as a story as a narrative. And I would like to design for those, for these stories. On one hand that would mean that we have 0t understand what these stories contain, what is in – what is in it, what is important tin that story? Are they all very personal? So would we have the same story? Can we talk about it? Will you understand my stories and vice versa and how can you set stories to put it – put them into products. The design part would then be retelling a story or telling a story through that product.
Rikke: Can you give an example? It is kind of intangible.
Marc: Yea, I understand. For me, I mean, there are not that many products around. The wake up light from Philips, for me, is a very good example for those who don’t know it I have one here. It looks like this. And what it does is you set a certain wake up time and half an hour before that it starts lighting up and it gets brighter and brighter. And the moment you have to you want it to get up it – it plays back the sound of birds and some bells or whatever you like. And you can see the story through that object. You can see how they went to people, asked them what is your favorite way of waking up and they said oh, I hate my alarm clock but sometimes if I don’t have to get up and the sun rises and I am just woken by the light and hear the birds that is a nice, that is a very nice situation. Now, the problem is that – that life doesn’t work like that so we can’t have the experience all the time. The product tries to give it to us even in situations – like a surrogate experience, even in situations where we can’t have it. And now you can say oh that is questionable because it is just fake. That’s not – I don’t believe in that. I think it can work like – like you know, love mothers the surrogate experience. It is not the real thing, but it is still more meaningful to us then a ringing alarm clock. This is a very technical solution. This would be a more experiential solution I would say.
And then the interesting thing is if you look at that design wise, you know, I’m an industrial designer, I think it is not - it is nothing very special. Maybe it is not even not very beautiful I would say. And the interaction is a bit awkward and so on. And this matters. Definitely matters and it should matter. The basic thing about it is the experience it creates and in that term, in that sense it doesn’t matter much to the user whether this is exactly or not it is more like a stand in or a placeholder for a certain experience you can have. This is, I think, quite different from for example, something like the iPhone.
Rikke: Yea. Describe the difference, briefly.
Marc: Yea, the iPhone is a – for me it is just an infrastructure, it is a nice mobile phone. The interesting part, the experiential part is what the applications people load on it because that will create new opportunities. But – but what they actually did is they took that gadget and they designed very nice aesthetics of interaction and that feels – it feels good. It is an experience only valid for the product so in that sense. And I think it is quite a difference because it puts the product in the – in the floor. It may get something it makes it it is novel and special and I can throw it around, very materialistic thing in that sense. It also feels better maybe than some buttons. It is all you know, it’s – it’s the iPhone says that I am so cool, I am so different you can’t have - it just feels better working with me and I would be more in – in products where you just, you know, forget the whole product and then care about the experience I just created.
Rikke: So this is more post materialistic.
Marc: Exactly, yea.
Rikke: You still have a product, but the product is not in – in the focus.
Marc: Yea, I like that – that expression it transcends its encasing. I don’t think the iPhone – the iPhone does it with the application stores, for example. It gives people, it opens up the possibilities you can write your own application, put it there. You can have everything on that infrastructure. Its appearance is in the application not in the – in the interaction with the device. I think we can still have technological progress in consumer electronics, but at a certain point it becomes just silly. It can’t – what else can you put into a mobile phone? I – I can’t imagine much more. So – so first we have the functions, then we have the aesthetics of interaction. Not everybody has a touch screen so what are the next steps. I think then, at a certain point we switch from a more technology innovation to again socially driven or human driven innovations where we just use the same technologies all the time as infrastructure but come up with new experiences.
Rikke: So this way of designing with the experience in mind is it something new or has it always been like this?
Marc: For me, I think it is something new. And the difference is that [inaudible[00:10:55] in the usability community everybody always said that they have the user in mind. They are still very much focused on the product and the technology used. And I think it is quite natural because that is where the skills are. If you are a manufacturer of telephones, mobile phones, you know the technology of mobile phones. Naturally, you tend to [inaudible[00:11:19] you tend to argue, hey, I manufacturing those and I am selling those so I want to make them good but – but you know it is still the technology I am designing. And usability is actually doing that making it easier, but never questioning the motto behind that. Never questioning is a mobile phone the right device. We are on that shift from a more materialistic to a more post materialistic society which means the post materialistic means that I’m as a person, I much more care about positive experiences I had in my life. I am not caring about possessions so much and about having things. Sometimes we want to have, we still want it. But I think it is just different shades of materialism.
I have a lot of friends, I am 40 years old, I have a lot of friends that are in music and there are plenty of them they want to have the record. But I have also younger friends, they don’t care that much. They care about the music. And I think that is like different shades of materialism. If you have the urge to own something that is more materialistic. And if you have this urge of going through something and not only owning that but owning that experience, memories of that and – and I think that is why digital cameras are so – are so popular because people are much more in experiences and they need ways to document it and because they won’t have the materials to signify this experience. So I think with this change it becomes quite, it is something new and you can also see that the industry is not so much adapted to it. If you look at technology manufacturers they do certain types of technologies they are good at. And yea, they put it – they put it in nice casings, they make nice little designs and good interface and so on and so on, but still a phone is a phone is a phone. They never rethink the whole thing.
Rikke: Thank you so much, Marc, for sharing your knowledge about user experience and experience design. And if you want to know more about it and how to put these insights into use when designing products you should have a look at our second interview with Marc. And you can also read the chapter he is writing, has written at interactiondesign.org and you can also find more chapters like his and find more videos like this one as well. Thank you so much for your time and interest.