Written by Robyn Collinge.
Over the last few months there’s been a new phrase hot on the lips of the design scene, ‘The Experience Age’. But in case you’ve missed out, tuned out, or simply been living under a rock with no mobile data, here’s a quick overview to get you in the loop.
Move Over, Information Age
When was the last time you updated your Facebook status? Don’t sweat it, we can’t remember either. In fact, it’s been reported that use of the original Facebook status update has plummeted by 21% in recent years and, according to Tech Crunch, this can be explained by the Information Age coming to an end. Thanks to mobile screens and the ‘internet of things’, it seems we have shifted into what is being commonly referred to as the experience age.
As users, a status box to signify the sharing and organization of information no longer stimulates us. Our connected and mobile devices are changing the context of our online interactions.
Now we’re seeking high-speed interconnectivity, omnichannel experiences, and virtual reality adventures. So, how does this change the way we must approach design? We decided to take a look at the skills that experience designers must perfect.
Understanding Human Behaviour
Any design or UX professional will have no doubt had the word ‘empathy’ drilled into them from day one. But this soft skill only becomes more relevant when it comes to designing for the experience age. Designers must be able to engross their customers in a completely compelling experience as opposed to simply creating a product that sells.
Humans are creatures of habit, to combat this we’ve seen a rise in designs that incorporate cues and rewards. For example, Netflix rewards users who rate the movies they watch by offering personalized recommendations after they do. Anticipatory design is another key factor to consider. Things have come a long way since Gmail began flagging emails without an attachment yet mentioned the word ‘attached’ in the email body. Designers must constantly go back and observe users natural behaviours in order to discover innovative ways to meet emerging needs; ultimately building a more human relationship.
Keep It Simple
As Invision explains, “experience designers understand the path of least resistance”. Much like the need for understanding human behaviour, it’s important for designers to meet the needs of today’s on-demand generation. We’re living in a society where we can get what we want and when we want it at the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen. Designing for the experience age needs to revolve around simplicity, both in design and functionality.
In fact, Invision even claims that “the best experience designers are typically those slacker kids you grew up with who figured out life’s algorithm at an early age.” Echoing Bill Gates’ infamous mantra of choosing a lazy person to do a hard job as they’re most likely to find an easy way to do it. Experience designers must not only design for a high-tech, fast-paced generation, but a relatively lazy one too.
It’s All In The Details
Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re all guilty of judging a book by it’s a cover. So when it comes to a thing like wearable tech, a prominent product of the experience age, designers must not only consider what functionalities the user needs but how aesthetically pleased they are too. For example, one of the main reasons Google Glass failed was how aesthetically unappealing the headset was. The product looked unnatural for the face, plus you really didn’t want something that expensive to be so noticeable should you take a turn down a dark alley.
Alongside aesthetics, when designing for the experience age, it’s important to honour the user’s present moment as opposed to distracting them from it. The devil is in the details, just be sure there aren’t too many of them.
Design has always been about the marriage of creative and technical, and as we progress further into the age of experience, it seems the gap between science and art is only getting smaller.