Getting great new experiences out into the world makes us giddy, and there is nothing we love more then being asked to contribute to the creation of new exciting experiences. In this slideshare presentation, we’ve identified five experiences from everyday life that we believe should be nurtured into existence.
Good experiences can solve many problems, from essential issues like energy efficiency to the more nuanced complexities of healthcare. The common thread running though each of these five ideas is that by addressing these challenges from the perspective of the user, we can find new approaches and unique requirements that hide from the typical business purview.
What are some experiences we’d rather avoid?
What are some experiences we’d prefer to avoid? And what are the implications of avoiding these experiences? In many cases, the implications are only personal: If we despise airport security, we might find alternate modes of travel or travel less. But when avoiding certain experiences hurts others and even society as a whole, these are experiences that matter.
How often do we hear people expressing how much they love visiting nursing homes, for example? Although these homes are filled with people who long for company, they’re about the last places people actually enjoy visiting. They make us uncomfortable. They make us act unnaturally towards the residents, talking to them like patients or children instead of valuable human beings.
Nursing homes, hospital wards, shelters, funeral homes, prisons… We’d all prefer to forget these dismal places. Certainly, people will endure them out of benevolence or for the sake of the ones they love. And they will inevitably bring us face to face with realities we might always prefer to avoid. But does visiting people we care about have to be a repulsive experience? Designers spend hours crafting perfect retail visitor experiences using sights, sounds, scents, and furnishings to draw in customers. Is it possible that experience design could transform these “institutions” we’d prefer to forget into inviting places that keep us coming back?
Imagine a hospital ward that is clean and modern, rather than green and sterile. The rooms are tastefully furnished, and the lighting is warm and inviting. People rave about the on-site restaurant: it’s the perfect place to celebrate a successful recovery!
Imagine a funeral home that is truly about celebrating life rather than awkwardly mourning death. The surroundings are familiar and are the kind of place the deceased would have enjoyed, which may or may not be an old-fashioned Victorian parlor. As friends lift their glasses to toast and share stories of the person’s life, the room is filled with laughter and life.
Imagine a child asking his mom, “When can we visit grandma again?” He loved baking cookies with her in the nursing home’s cozy kitchen, and mom loved sitting in the coffee-shop lounge chairs by the fireplace, sharing stories and just talking to her mother like old times.
The experiences we’d prefer to forget are the experiences ripest for re-imagining. If people with an experience mindset (myself included) just immersed ourselves in these places — spending time with the elderly, feeding the hungry, even visiting prisoners — I’m sure we couldn’t stop our minds from spinning. As a society, we have a responsibility to remember the less fortunate among us. I look forward to seeing how experience design can play a part in making this happen.
It’s Easy to Buy a Car Online. Why is it so Hard to Own One?
Planned obsolescence. I hate that phrase, but it very much characterizes the way we interact with most of the things we buy. My generation seems like it was the last one that inherited a resistance to that idea from our parents.
As much as I hate the idea, it’s very representative of how I live my life. I throw out a lot of stuff I could have repaired, and I’m kind of ashamed of it. I suspect I’m not alone. How many early 30 somethings do you know can maintain and even repair stuff when little things go wrong? Our tendency is to go ahead and replace rather than renew. We have no idea what maintenance actually entails.
But there are some things that you can’t just throw out — like cars. My problem is that I am utterly clueless about cars. What’s utterly baffling to me is that many companies barely bother designing the ownership experience for their cars. Shopping for cars online is awesome. It’s amazing to see the cool sites and features auto manufacturers put out there in an effort to get you to learn and buy. The entry experience is great.
My problem is the experience once you have the car. It’s pretty grim after you’ve parted with your money. Say hello to official and unofficial owners clubs, terrible dealership websites, and hunting and gathering information, especially if you get a used car that’s several years old. And don’t even get me started on finding a mechanic.
Why is this so hard? We’re all used to going online to learn more about our consumer electronics and how to fix them when they crash. (Hi there Windows Vista.) That’s the behavior we’re attuned to. Why isn’t there something like that for cars? I might start here:
* Instead of having me join an owner’s club, how about getting me registered for regular service reminders?
* Instead of showing me next year’s models when I log in, how about telling me about what I should be doing to care for the car I just bought?
* How about creating online owner’s manuals that aren’t just PDF versions of what’s sitting in my glove compartment? Something searchable would be a good start.
* Can you hook me up with my dealer in a meaningful way? He’s my only connection to your brand and product, but you sure don’t seem to care about me connecting to him.
* Why do I have to carry around a folder of repair records? Electronic medical records may be a long way off, but electronic car records should be relatively easy to accomplish. Service centers have all this information in their systems after all.
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what consumers want in a post purchase experience from their car manufacturer. I bet it wouldn’t be much of a design challenge. In terms of long-term customer experience and satisfaction, it might make a world of difference.
Ever noticed how parking garages are designed only for cars?
by Andrew Crow
In the years that people have been building parking lots and structures, we seem to have perfected the art of painting lines marking the location for our cars. We have small spaces for compacts, larger spaces for SUVs, loading zones — all of which were born out of the needs of the vehicles and their purposes.
Recently, garages began expanding their technology to include services for indicating the number of empty spaces on a given floor and pay kiosks for speedy exits. All of these things are aimed at improving the experience of driving or parking the car.
What is often ignored are the needs of people once they leave the shelter of their steel cages. Remember that a person’s destination is rarely the garage itself — they need to go somewhere after they’ve parked their car. Little emphasis is placed on designing for the exit strategy (pun intended).
Sure, there are the occasional signs marking the elevators and exits, but some garages are so large people have to search for the information they need. Moreover, people end up walking in the roadways to get to these exits, placing them in competition for space with oncoming traffic.
I would like to see parking garages designed for the end use in mind. Let’s develop walkways for individuals and families to get to the elevator safely. Let’s improve the recognition of what floor you left your car on by having the elevator remind you when you step into it. Let’s imagine ways to improve way finding and reduce confusion in these gigantic cement structures.
I think we can implement lightweight changes that are cost effective and do not affect the structure of the building, while balancing the needs of the garage’s owner who wants to devote the maximum amount of space to cars. There are some quick wins like improving the design of the signage or using painted lines to mark out walkways.
Office buildings, malls and other public spaces have become more aware of the human experience. In time, I suspect we’ll see improvement in the typical utilitarian buildings, too. Until then, be safe and look both ways before crossing the road.
Improving Personal Energy Consumption
It takes motivation to be truly green, and there is nothing more motivating than the current economy, especially when you get your monthly energy bill and see the effects of your personal energy usage.
The trouble is that when you get that big bill, you can’t identify the areas of usage and waste. There is no basis for change other than the nagging from your Mom to not hold the frig door open.
There are at least two better approaches to helping people find more money in their energy bills:
First are experiences that motivate and guide people towards typical practical improvements, resulting in positive impacts in most situations: better insulation, more efficient bulbs. For example, the soon to launch Wattbot site promises to look at your situation from a project-based perspective.
People estimate their potential savings related to the estimated costs of a project. The net savings is a great motivator, but the challenge with this approach is to remove all the logistical obstacles AND THEN fulfill on the estimated financial results. This approach needs careful planning of an end-to-end motivating experience.
The other approach is service-based and tailored to your specific energy usage. Imagine a take-home kit that reveals the real energy drains, which are swallowing big chunks of change from your wallet. Your consumption is presented to you vividly on screen, letting you see the trends and spot areas for improvement. This home assessment results in immediate results, like unplugging that security system you never enabled. The savings are tracked, tallied, and the savings behavior becomes addictive, leading you to additional actions. The challenge here is making the Nike plus of energy efficiency. It’s gotta be drop-dead easy and highly visual.
Either way, these experiences are win-win-win. Good for your wallet, good for the utility company, good for the world.
In Sickness and In Health
by Leah Buley
Healthcare is big business, but for consumers, the experience of seeking health information and services is often a bumpy and confusing ride.
At HealthCamp, a 2006 conference where health professionals came together to look at the healthcare system from the perspective of the consumer (that’s you and me, folks), they saw a messy constellation of health plans, savings accounts, out of pockets costs, employer sponsored programs, medication info, monitoring devices, web sites, books, support groups, hospitals, primary care doctors, urgent care doctors, diets, fitness regimes, supplements, and more.
In such a complex system, where does a person even begin? Increasingly, the answers seem to be on the Internet. But as Susannah Fox from the Pew Internet and American Life Project recently pointed out, people with less education tend to have lower levels of health literacy, and are less confident navigators of the online world. How can we employ technology intelligently to empower *everyone* to track and access health care for themselves and their families?
A few ideas:
* More community-sourced conversations (in-person or online) about symptoms, treatment, prevention, and living with various conditions. (Check out PatientsLikeMe.com, which provides a forum for people to share medical information and personal histories about Multiple Sclerosis, as an isolated but successful example of this kind of community.)
* Better portability of medical records — giving people a way to own and migrate their own health information from one health care provider to another, using common technologies like mobile phones to capture and carry their information.
* More independent, location-based tools of Yelp-like reach and candor that provide honest, straight-from-the-patient’s-mouth perspectives on how and where to access care, and the quality of healthcare providers.
* Better search tools to connect and decode scientific terminology into “real language” for real people.
And rather than waiting until illness strikes, how can the experience of preventative care be improved? In Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein introduce the idea of RECAP reporting. RECAP stands for “Record, Evaluate, Compare Alternative Prices,” but the basic idea is to simply give individuals visibility into their own behaviors. Showing people data about their own activities and, where relevant, the financial or environmental impact of those activities, makes it easier to see the mounting consequences of actions with delayed costs (which, without good feedback, can often seem consequence-less).
In that line of thinking, I’d love to have better, in-the-moment feedback on the nutritional value of foods that I’m eating (without having to tote around a food scale, a calculator, and a magnifying glass for reading the nutritional label). I know there are mobile applications that do this, and that web-based and paper-based tools have been around for years, but I find they’re all too much work. Invariably I will track diligently for about a day and a half and then just forget about it.
Ideally, I would like something that detects on its own and does the tracking for me. It would show me the cumulative calories, fat, vitamins, contaminants, alcohol, nicotine, going into my body. Similarly, I’d like to see daily measures of risk and stress such as blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol.
A study I read about recently showed that people who step onto a scale regularly are more likely to maintain a steady weight because they may subtly adjust their behaviors from one day to the next in order to track to the norm. Metaphorically and literally, we can all be stepping onto the scale a lot more often, and organizations that make it easy for us to do that will deserve our respect and our business.