Creating Killer Services
David Siegel’s book Creating Killer Websites was probably the most influential web design book of the 1990s. It’s anathema these days, but Siegel introduced concepts that fundamentally changed how websites were built. Besides the technical heresy of single pixel GIFs and table-based layout, Siegel advocated experience design principles for the web.
An entry to your site tells people where they are without serving them the whole smorgasbord of delights at once. A front door, also known as a splash screen, loads quickly and tells people what’s going on inside. It should be hard to walk away from, yet it should tell people what they’re getting into.
As visitors enter your site, you may want to give them the option of taking a short ride rather than going straight into the site. I call these rides entry tunnels. They help build anticipation as people approach the heart of the site.
From an experience design perspective this is right on, and if people were actually interested in having an experience on the web, entry tunnels and splash screens would still be around. But people hate them; they’re simply not willing to have their digital encounters mediated with such a heavy hand.
It’s not just the web either. The entire field of user experience design has little if anything to do with experiences. Certainly not in the sense that Pine and Gilmore define them. There’s a nice quote on the distinction over at UX Matters:
The only true experience designers in history are Hugh Hefner, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs.
That goes a little too far, but he’s right that user experience design pales in comparison to experience design. Most digital encounters aren’t designed to be memorable events. Users are impatient and carry a healthy sense of entitlement. Give me what I want and then get the hell out of my way.
Jeffrey Zeldman has commented on this tendency to forego the niceties of experience. People ask him why he doesn’t offer a full RSS feed for his blog so people can read his posts without visiting his website. His reply: “why don’t you store your groceries on the sidewalk so we can eat your food without sitting across the table from you?” He’s not just providing content, he’s doing his best to engage the reader. But it’s an uphill battle.
It’s really too bad the two disciplines share such similar names. Maybe there are more accurate words to describe user experience. User encounter? User transaction? I believe that experience design does exist, and it’s a different animal. If user experience design isn’t about experience, let’s figure out what it’s really about and start calling it that.