To many, a line is simply an inconvenience, a burden into which we are all born and an experience we are doomed to suffer repeatedly throughout our lives. But, often, there is more to a line than we are led – ahem – to believe. Consider the last time you spent in line, perhaps for a desirable outcome, such as a hit movie or an aromatic beverage. Quite possibly, your line experience was not as random as you may think: The Secret Objectives of Queues.
As a UX designer, from the moment I discovered the user’s journey in my toolbox it wore a smudge like a ghost that I could neither fathom or shake. I was captivated by its mysterious doppelgänger, desperate for recognition, articulation and understanding.
And, then, one day not so long ago (today, in fact), in a moment of unnatural clarity, the image focused and leapt out of nether-consciousness, imprinting itself on my left frontal lobe: Joseph Campbell.
If personas are archetypes, then their journeys are nothing less than a hero’s journey. And, who could have captured this better?
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man. (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces)[/quote]
That the journey we take each day through the infinite expanses of the Internet was so eloquently described by Joseph Campbell in 1949 should come as no surprise. The digital domain is but one more milieu in which we, as humans, have learned to navigate, engage, question, dream and thrive.
In coming posts, I will visit the hero’s journey from ordinary world into the unknown, to his triumphant return with the treasure for which he suffered so greatly. And, in doing so, perhaps illuminate the journey each of us takes daily through these fictive landscapes.
What is experience? For every person, there is likely a very unique definition. To a job seeker, it’s a section on a resume. A traveler might define it in photos uploaded to Flickr. Another might speak of a spiritual journey.
At its foundation, experience is that bridge with connects each of us to our world. Through our senses, we are able to navigate a complex and infinite universe, often familiar, but frequently not. It is the latter wanderer whom the UX professional seeks to guide, to provide him or her with a landscape which, although foreign, is at at the same time familiar.
Oscar Wilde once remarked, “experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” A century ago, in what — in many ways — was a slower time, such words are almost quaint. But, in the present world, a single life may be filled with more distractions than an entire city experienced in a generation in Mr. Wilde’s time. On the Internet, a mistake, in an instant, may come at the expense of an otherwise desirable client — or many.
And, so, such is the art of the UX designer, practicing a craft built upon cognitive psychology, qualitative statistics, personas, wireframes, usability studies, taxonomies and endless possibilities, all with the simple goal of simplifying the complexity of experience.
My task, then, is to ensure that your website’s visitors find and collect what they came for, as efficiently, painlessly and quickly as possible. And, hopefully, that they will recall their experience as good, one that they will share with others.