I recently edited an article for UX Magazine (When You Startup with UX) in which I interviewed four startups on what User Experience means to them.
“…when you only have three users, but the service doesn’t work, you should fix the service first. A coffee shop needs to serve good coffee before optimizing table layout.”
I remember when he said it. I was sitting across the table from him at Think Coffee, which for all intents and purposes is Foursquare’s cafeteria.
There I was trying to capture nuggets from big tech players to prove that all of their success rests on their user experience, and finally it hit me — it doesn’t.
* * *
Of all the products in my apartment (and there must be more than 500 not including media), there is one that I consider to be the single best product I’ve ever purchased: the Magic Eraser. It’s not even the Mr. Clean brand, it’s just the generic Duane Reade version.
Why is it the best product I’ve ever bought? Because it just works.
As I was cleaning the scratches off my walls just moments ago, I was reminded of what Mike said. If it doesn’t work, no amount of user experience is going to fix it. So then logic would tell us that the developer is more important than the user experience designer. There, I said it. We are NOT the center of the universe.
The Magic Eraser has almost no aesthetic to it. It’s just a squishy white block of melamine foam. It doesn’t have ergonomic indentations for your fingers, or the optimal wiping direction somehow indicated, or pretty flowers printed on it. You just pour some water on it, squeeze off the excess, and wipe. And it works! Every time.
When forcing myself to think about its user experience, I can only come up with the following:
- It doesn’t flake off as you wipe
- It doesn’t leave a residue on your hands
- It dries quickly
- It’s reusable
…None of which would matter if it didn’t remove stains as it promises!
If I were designing a product from scratch and had full control over its development, this is what I’d choose to do: 1) make it do what it’s supposed to do; 2) make it fun to use; 3) make it easy to use; 4) make it look good.
That means you need an engineer before you need a user experience designer, and you need a user experience designer before you need a visual designer.
That’s just what I was thinking about as I was cleaning my walls. I feel much better now that I got the dirt off.