Why can't people just get along? And even more importantly, why can't everyone just see things MY way?
Of course I jest (no, really) -- but in the Web world, disagreements in the enterprise often arise from subjective intuition; that is, one's visceral reaction to that not-so-lovely green on the homepage, or to serif fonts, for example. But it's not really about the color or the typeface, is it? It's all about the words
, the context, and "experience keywords."
"Experience keywords," which seem to carry the same money-generating mystique associated with "spirit fingers," is a term used by Nick Myers, a visual designer at consulting firm Cooper, in his article "Using Research to End Visual Design Debates
." The phrase refers to descriptive words or concepts mentioned repeatedly during stakeholder and user interviews.
These words help to define and govern the visual strategy for a website. According to Myers, "Experience keywords represent the 'initial five-second' emotional reaction that personas should feel when viewing the interface."
Once keywords have been grouped appropriately and agreed-upon, the words will suggest strong directions for the visual design, perhaps reflecting the need for an interface that uses soft colors and shapes or one with more contrast and decisive lines.
A fully developed and designed website has a funny way of taking on the characteristics of a person - and, in turn, develops its own personality. In an ideal world, its personality matches its interface. Myers encourages designers to ask stakeholders:
* If the interface were a person, what would he or she be like?
* What celebrity (or car, movie, etc.) is the product most like? Least like? Why?
This all may sound a little New Agey, but responses to these questions are critical. They lend valuable insight into a site's personality and may help develop the list of experience keywords crucial to the visual design.
This same careful execution of words can also be used to guide customers into effective use of your website. Web content and usability maverick Gerry McGovern suggests knowing "customers' carewords
," which essentially motivate the user. Accordingly, "if you use the words your customers care most about, your website will deliver more value."
In other words, creating a positive user experience
is all about knowing your customers better than they know themselves.
The point is, what WE -- the graphic designer, the web designer, the content manager, the developer, the site architect, the usability strategist -- care about isn't always what THEY -- the consumer, user, reader -- care about. And the disparity can be huge. In the end, it's the latter group that's rewarding the former group for delivering relevance. That's a position that merits reflection.
A recent article highlights this perspective well. "Simplicity Is Highly Overrated
" summarizes Don Norman's view that "features win over simplicity, even when people realize that it is accompanied by more complexity."
Argue all you please
over his claim that too much simplicity causes people to question a thing's utility, but the point is we need
to give the people what they want, which can only be done by observing how they act and speak in the field.
This brings us back to Myers' experience keywords. To avoid all unnecessary fighting over font size, color scheme and the corners of the banners (curved or sharp?) that inevitably leap into salience when discussing your project with designers, techies and execs, guide those parties with care to the relevant meat of the matter in the same way you expect to lead your customers: With a careful choice of words.