Perfecting the Craft of the Nothing
As a User Experience Designer, it's not my focus to herald new and exciting things, but to perfect the art of what already exists.
You’ve been to one of these hugely exciting new summer blockbusters that stupefy you with intricately designed alien spacecrafts, godlike heroes and celestial trans-dimensional set pieces. We all love these movies and I’m no exception to their draw. I was hugely excited with every Transformers movie that came out. This certainly isn’t “a movie critique a decade too late,” I’d like to draw a parallel from the failure of the beloved poor Transformers into the world of User Experience Design.
UX always draws from the same rules. The human experience is relegated to the brain and its connected members. Mobile UX is bound to the hands/device, desktop UX is bound to the mouse/keyboard/screen and sometimes the webcam. Each has the goal of delighting us emotionally and easing our concerns mentally. The principal experience that the summer blockbuster creates should primarily be an emotional one. One that leaves its users/viewers with something more than the wow of “new.” Cinema UX is bound to the eyes and ears, it has no touch interaction or inputs, just viewable output. Its parallels with our present condition either engage us to a reaction or disconnect us to disinterest. That being said, one can create a movie or show about nothing new and create a more stable connection than one relying purely on a new concept no matter how magnificent its design or construction. This is why Seinfeld is considered a revolutionary success and Transformers movies are considered an intellectual failure. The experience of Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine is so relatable that it enhances our lives through their comedy week to week. Sam Witwicki’s experience with Bumblebee and the gang is so unrealistic (in all its CGI realism) and shallow that our minds have no place to grasp a connection so we just awe at its magnitude and then ultimately forget it.
It's a big setup to say this, User Experience Design isn’t about creating new things. You take what’s already there, arrange the elements to remove any disconnection between the product’s userflow and the user’s perception and then add elements of delight that create an emotional connection with the user. UX is making a user’s day better by making the same “nothing-new” format of a website seem like the best website ever. At times, its about taking a new concept and fitting it back into that “nothing new” format in an engaging and delightful way then slowly helping users to understand its true magnitude.
Every new element you introduce however, is something new to process. This is why people felt nothing when Jazz (one of the Transformers) was ripped in half by Megatron. There were so many new locations, characters, images, plot elements, and the story to process; no emotional connection was made between you and this walking Pontiac commercial/capoeira champion that just gruesomely died.
When a website is so chock full of illustration, color, textures, information, imagery, buttons, navigational elements and more; a user doesn’t have the ability to process what its actually trying to sell you. Take a page from Seinfeld’s playbook: 30 funny minutes about nothing is infinitely better than 2 hours of intergalactic fighting robots.