Wading the Waters of User Experience

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Wading the Waters of User Experience

On April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank into the icy waters of the northern Atlantic. Previously deemed “unsinkable,” the public was astonished and confused at how such a massive, luxurious, impressive ocean liner could have fallen to the sea floor. In the initial government investigation, the captain was blamed for crashing into an iceberg at maximum speed. Granted, this deduction makes a lot of sense, but we’re talking about a supposedly “unsinkable” boat here; 883 feet long and 52,310 tons of steel. How could one puny chunk of ice take down the ship named for the primordial titans of greek mythology? Scientists debated, pondered, and theorized until 1992 when they were able to study the remains of the wreck, and even then they were divided. Some argued that the steel in the hull was brittle at points, while others argued the iron rivets were subject to fracturing. Regardless of the cause, the conclusion is the same: one small error in the manufacturing process brought down a ship that, from the outside, seemed perfect and indestructible.

The sinking of the Titanic is an accurate metaphor for the importance of user experience (UX) design for a couple reasons. You might have gorgeous graphic design, intriguing web copy, and an intuitive interface, but some small error in the coding process is messing up data retrieval on your contact form. Or maybe it’s the opposite: everything is running smoothly on the back-end, but your design is glaringly bad, or you’ve got an annoying song playing on your home page. One tiny misstep in an otherwise perfect creation can bring the whole thing tumbling down, and that’s not an exaggeration. People head to the web or their mobile apps for account information and utility more than ever. A smooth web/mobile interface that allows for online banking isn’t a nice feature anymore, it’s expected. Without a thorough user experience design process, you can go from feeling like you’re king of the world to desperately grasping floating wreckage for survival.

Let’s move away from the Titanic, and over to the iceberg itself. From the ship deck, you might see what appears to be a large, floating chunk of ice, but the true bulk and force of the ice lies beneath the surface: around 90% of the icy island is underwater. While the Titanic is a metaphor for the risks of bad UX design, the iceberg serves as a representation of the design itself. Freud used the iceberg to represent the levels of human consciousness, with our thoughts and perceptions floating above the surface, and everything from our memories, to our fears and subconscious desires resting underneath. This model is an accurate representation of UX, with everything we instantly perceive (like text and color) at the top, and so on down the line, with every section building off the previous one. We put together an infographic to represent this process, so you’ll never forget the iceberg model and the importance of logical, thorough UX design.

For examples of aforementioned logical design, check out The Pod Advertising site, and other sites we’ve designed to see how we can keep your user experience above the water!

Wading The Waters of User Experience Infographic