Threefold path to UX bliss or what being snowed in taught me about UX


I’ve been snowed in before. If you live in a region that gets any kind of regular snow, then you’ve probably been snowed in before, too. Generally, there are phases to the thing. First, you’re kind of excited by it, the anticipation; you get sort of a cozy feeling and you want to warm up near a fire with some hot cocoa and, I don’t know, maybe, if you’re me, a copy Steinbeck’s The Winter of our Discontent. But, eventually, the fire dies, with all the remaining wood covered with snow, the hot cocoa no longer is, well, hot… and Steinbeck, just induces its own kind of discontent. For the final phase, a decision diagram could be inserted…

I could:

A.) Let my restlessness and agitation grow; 

B.) Surrender to circumstance, put on a recording of Claude Debussy’s Images for Solo Piano and crawl under a great big down comforter for a long winter’s nap.


Ahh… Option B sounds really good right now… Unfortunately, if you would have guessed Option A, you’d be right. I’ve done both at different times, but this time I went with Option A, growing restlessness and agitation… And while this is not generally a state of clarity, at least not for me, this time it was as I was given a fresh new perspective on user experience, or the threefold path to UX bliss.

So, let’s look at the phases, or the threefold path, within the context of using a new website, app or really anything that you interact with:

  1. Anticipation (Seeds of expectation begin to germinate)
  2. Use (Seeds have become full expectation)
  3. Acceptance/Refusal (Expectations met/not met)

Any user experience begins with anticipation, it could be weeks before a website or video game comes out, or it could be the ten seconds that it takes you to download a new app from the Apple Store. In either instance there is anticipation and with that anticipation, seeds of expectation begin to germinate. Now, sure, there are some folks who come at things with an open mind, but mostly UX, as a discipline, is not designed for this rarefied cognitive superhero, but rather the everyday schlub like you and me who wants stuff to work like all the other stuff we use.

Use is where the rubber meets the road. Does the thing meet the user’s expectations? This is why we do research, this is why we measure and this is why we test. We want to ensure that we’ve nailed the expectations and met them. When you talk about a minimum viable product, you’re talking about the minimum viable expectations. What can be released that’s enough to keep the user interested and satisfied knowing that we can’t give them everything they want with the first release.

Finally, we’re at the acceptance/refusal — Will the user accept it or refuse it? Were there expectations met or not? Of course, when we talk about UX, what we’re talking about is always clearing this hurdle of acceptance easily and clearly with few notes and fewer revisions. After all UX is iterative, so what may have been missed will be caught the next time through; that’s the goal of UX and the heart of user-centered design which is the less buzzwordy bedrock of what it means to do user experience work.

Ultimately, what we’re talking about are expectations. UX is the work of defining, designing and testing for those expectations. Experience and expectation both begin with “ex” the Latin preposition for “out of, or from”. Whether you’re talking about the experience that comes ‘out of’ the expectations, or experience that comes ‘from’ the expectations, there’s little distinction, which makes the user-centered design aspect critical to a successful UX, or put another way creates the UX bliss.

I’m still trying to recover from that cabin fever, and I hope that I’m not snowed in anytime soon, but if I am I’m definitely going to temper my expectations and make few plans. In fact, I heard there’s another storm front moving in next week. Now, where was the last place I saw that CD of Claude Debussy’s Images for Solo Piano…


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