UX is magic!
Magic and UX design? Seriously? Here’s the deal. I tell everyone that I design and create a user experience. But in reality, I’m just making useflows, or usecases, or a user interface, or talking a lot in meetings, or taking care of some other fancy deliverables (yes, even talking in meetings can be a deliverable).
Someone else on the project is creating Powerpoints or Market Insights or code or installing a particularly nifty piece of software. So does that mean that the creator of Powerpoints is somehow exempt from creating the user experience? Or is it that only after all the usage flows and Powerpoints and talking and coding are done do we get whatever it is that’s supposed to give users an experience.
User experience isn’t design, it’s what happens to the user when you – and everyone else involved in the project – have done their job. And in that sense, it’s like magic.
Like Harry Potter?
Unfortunately, no. Out here in the real world, magic is a concept that says one thing and does another: It claims that the penny in the magician’s hand appeared from behind your ear, out of nowhere, by some kind of magic far beyond the imagination of your puny mind, when in fact it was a sleight of hand, a sequence of motions meticulously practiced and used to give you a certain experience – making you believe that the coin was conjured from behind your ear, not hidden in your hand all along.
And UX design?
Like a magician, UX creates a view of the world that works for the user – meets their expectations, delivers what they paid for, and – when done right – delights and entertains them. For this to work, the audience must be on board and willing to become part of the show. UX design can make an important contribution to this, the rest is up to the audience (unless you want to lead them completely by the nose). So has the magician created magic? He did, as did the audience. They both created it by setting out on a path to create the experience. They called that path magic and created the experience of a giggle and a tingle running down your spine.
Path without name
User experience is another name for this path. Those who go to Las Vegas to have their coins plucked from behind their ears (and those who wait in Las Vegas to do the plucking) have collectively chosen a path called magic. Those who want to create a user experience must find and name their path together with those who want to walk that path – even if, in most cases, it doesn’t end with a giggle and a tingle down your spine. But remember – even though some elements may seem familiar every time you walk that path, it’s new every time. It’s just UX magic if you don’t walk the same path every time. As the teacher said:
The Tao that can be tread upon is not the permanent and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the permanent and unchanging name.
The Tao that has no name is the origin of heaven and earth; the Tao that has a name is the mother of all things..