Garrett's State of User Experience

Garrett’s State of User Experience


Jesse James Garrett gives a State of the User Experience Address

UX Week – Video

Jesse James Garrett, author of The Elements of User Experience – User-Centered Design For The Web, who can be considered one of the founding fathers of user experience design as a multidisciplinary practice, and profession, gives his first state of the union (of user experience) address at a recent UX Week, one of Adaptive Path’s training seminars.

Abstract of Jesse James Garrett’s State of User Experience

For those without computer audio or 39:47 minutes to listen to it:

In 15 years we’ve gone from a narrow design niche (web design) to an expansive view of what user experience design can be. Many design schools still teach design medium by medium, which Garrett calls “mediumism.” But as we look at user experience, this begins to seem outdated.

UX design media progression: web > software > digital media (i.e. Second Life) > mobile > to any technology, and even products and services and environments. And beyond all of that, integrating all of these things together in to a larger whole; “multi-channel experiences” that integrate many kinds of design to create a holistic experience for people.

“A database architect makes information work for machines. An information architect makes information work for people.”

So what is a UX designer’s medium? What does it mean to be a User Experience Designer when experience itself is

  • Subjective
  • Ephemeral
  • Intangible

How can you design for a medium that is intangible, that doesn’t seem to exist? By designing for people, a.k.a. “users”.

What do people want from the experiences that we create? The traditional answer is, ‘it depends.’ But it really boils down to something fundamental: engagement. People, says Garrett, want to be engaged by the experiences we have.

“Experience design is the design of anything, independent of medium, or across media, with human experience as an explicit outcome, and human engagement as an explicit goal.”

Engagement, as a matter or perception, means engaging people’s sense of:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Taste

Engagement with our senses also encompass engagement with our minds (cognition). And though engagement of the mind is the core competency of experience design, its traditional focus on the mind, in terms of information consumption, doesn’t address engagement of the mind as a whole. After perception, action, and cognition, the fourth dimension of experience is emotion: “engagement of the heart”, as Garrett puts it.

The dimensions of experience are presented as

  • External engagement:
    • Perception: engaging the senses
    • Action: engaging the body
  • Internal engagement:
    • Cognition: engaging the mind
    • Emotion: engaging the heart

These form the acronym P.A.C.E.

The subjectivity of experience is the result of the intersection between people’s capabilities, constraints and context, which exist in all four areas of experience; perception, action, cognition, and emotion.

perception, action, cognition, emotion

In order for us to move beyond “mediumism,” we should think in terms of these dimensions and apply them to the analysis of our experiences, and those we create. The goal of this analysis should be orchestration; bringing all of the dimensions together in harmony.

For us to realize the potential of experience design as independent of media we have to embrace the idea that we are not simply creating the parts, but experiences that happen when the parts come together.

“Music is what happens between the notes.”
—Claude DeBussy

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”
—Miles Davis

In sum, UX designers create spaces where experience can emerge.

Show 3 Comments
  1. Great presentation indeed. But I wish JJ Garrett will stop sipping water during the presentation… annoying.

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