links for 2007-08-22
First//Look: Microsoft's Tafiti (beta)

What my dogs can teach you about user experience design

First, meet my dogs. Two loving, balls of energy named Copeland and Crawford.


Now, if you know my wife and I, you know that our dogs are our children. We tend to spoil them and go a little overboard at times. But, we love them. One of the indulgences we treat them to is doggie ice cream. They come in the same type containers that ice cream used to come in (maybe it still does) in school when you would eat it with a tiny wooden spoon.

There are two types of doggie ice cream to choose from in the ice cream section at the grocery (I am not making this up, go check for yourself), Dogsters and Frosty Paws. Our dogs will, honestly, eat anything so we generally buy a couple boxes of each and ration them out when the temperature gets hot.

copeland_icecream.jpgSo what does this have to do with user experience you ask? I'll tell you. The Frosty Paws ice cream comes in a paper cup and the Dogsters comes in a plastic one. Want to guess which company has actually seen dogs with their product in the real world? No matter how fast I am to retrieve the container after they're done, one of my guys has usually half-chewed and digested the container. Now which would you rather have your dog eat, the paper one or the sharp, splintering plastic one?

Needless to say we have switched entirely to Frosty Paws because it is crystal clear that they've actually spent time with dogs and their products in the real world. They care enough to adjust the product (which also used to come in plastic containers) to use paper for the health and safety of the dog.

So let's put this in the perspective of digital marketing. The user experience is the differentiator between just being some random website and something you would add to your bookmarks. It's the difference between vanity and utility, between forgotten and viral. The best experience designers study how the users interact in the real world and adapt the objects to meet their needs. Maybe people are looking at your site on mobile phones. Maybe you have a lot of busy moms who have a kid in one arm and are trying to find quick information. How do you know unless you engage them in conversation?

Do you test new features with your customers in real-world conditions? How many services lose support because of poor testing and experience design?

Any experience designers want to weigh in here?

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