Where Madness Strikes


It’s March, and whether you’re following college ball, or just swamped at work, it’s a month of madness for most. It’s got me thinking about the role of experience design in lessening the madness in our everyday lives whenever possible and its potential to fuel the madness when things malfunction or underdeliver. We come across many frustrating experiences and interactions on a daily basis, whether it’s waiting in line at the DMV and being sent home because you don’t have the right documentation, or missing a turn on a long journey because the sign you were looking for was out of sight or difficult to interpret under strenuous conditions. Whatever the scenario, the frustration is only compounded when we’re lost, in a bind, or not feeling 100 percent. As an experience designer I try to be cognizant not only of what a user is trying to accomplish, but under what conditions. By taking the time to understand a user’s state of mind you can prioritize functionality, making the whole experience that much more satisfying. In hopes of reducing the madness for people everywhere, here are a few mindsets to be wary of when designing for people.

I’m Late, Don’t Hold Me Up
Just thinking about being late for something important like a flight or a first date gives me anxiety, especially when it’s out of your control due to some external factor like a traffic jam or impromptu subway delay. As a designer any chance you have to improve the situation, provide an alternative solution, or soften the blow when tragedy strikes, is a major win for you, your team, and your coveted user base.

I’m Lost, Don’t Leave Me Stranded
I was recently struck by the impending madness of being lost, and feeling helpless at the hands of my iPhone 6 and its non existent 4G signal. In a situation where people become so reliant on a particular technology, it’s important as ever to provide safeguards and offline functionality that can help save the day. When developing a solution where a situation like this might arise, start at the worst possible scenario and work yourself backwards. I know it seems counter intuitive as most experience designers are told to focus on the primary use case, and only then determine what less likely scenarios to solve for, but I promise, if you’re there when they need you most, you’ll have them for life.

It’s Important, Don’t Mess It Up
There’s a lot of pressure in being the go-to service or product for important occasions or rites of passage. I’m talking weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations. For these “once in a lifetime” types of events, you better be on your A-game, and prepared for anything. Oh, and when something slips through the cracks, you better be ready to do everything in your power to make things right.

I Feel Like Shit, Don’t Make It Worse
Early mornings, late nights, the annual flu. These are all scenarios where people feel terrible, and the littlest thing can make things exponentially worse. Going the extra mile to help people get through these trying times can make all the difference. And it’s really the best time to show them that you really “get” them, and that you really care. Giving users in this situation a subtle gift, or just a bit of extra care can a go a long way.

Sebastian is a user experience designer based in Brooklyn. He was born in New York, can you tell? Challah back.