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Themes in User Experience, Part III – Emotion in Business

At the DUX 2003 conference, I found myself on a panel talking about organizational and business issues. I was substituting for Jeff, who was unable to attend.

It was a great panel — each panelist presented ways they were able to get folks in their organizations to appreciate user-centered design. After the panelists spoke, I realized a thread emerging about the value of emotional pulls. Bill Bachman from Adobe used “UI Trivia Quizzes” and report cards to make smart interface design less dull, more engaging. Steve Sato found that a CD with video of customer visits and usability tests, “[engaged colleagues] at an emotional level that is rarely touched by logic alone.” Jeff had found a similar response when showing tests of the usability of PBS’ member stations. Jan-Christoph Zoels showed beautiful design prototypes of washing machines that hinted at compelling future possibilities.

It was surprising, on what was essentially the “business panel” for touchy-feely emotions to keep cropping up. There’s a tendency to assume that business is driven by numbers, and in talking to most user experience folks about their difficulties in work with ‘business’, the primary issue is a lack of good metrics.

This panel showed that metrics is only part of the picture. You need to compel others viscerally as well. It reminded me of a comment my partner Janice made in her workshop on “Managing Design Politics” — people use their intellect to rationalize a decision already made through emotion.

  1. Nothing is purely rational in a business world. If anyone has ever read any business magazine or journal, managed people, etc. would know that even though a business is run by numbers, a business is made of people…which means relationships…which means lots of opinions and emotions…that’s the whole challenge of building an organization…it’s about building your people and aligning them to goals that help the company build great products/services that in turn create revenue/profits.

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