The Useful Vs. The Cool

I mentioned this blog post in an earlier post. Here's a quote:

Traditional agencies in the digital space (and indeed traditional digital agencies) are easily seduced by the power of Flash and the wonders of animation; we want attention and spectacle but what happens next? Why should the user stay, what are we asking them to do and where should they go next? The campaign microsite is perhaps the prime expression of this tendency-as Iain Tate puts it, impressively punchily, in Campaign:

“No one cares about your bloody microsite. In 2009 the flashy high production value microsite is finally starting to feel irrelevant. Sites that seem to do everything, but deliver nothing.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, design in the digital space has become so seamless, effortless and professional that it’s arguably all getting a bit predictable. Usability was (quite rightly) the holy grail for many years, reaching its apotheosis in Jakob Nielsen’s controversial ultimate in functionality. Now it seems though that perhaps every easy, effortless site is much like every other easy, effortless site.

You know what's always bugged me... this idea that usability is the only goal of user experience design. It leaves guys like me who came out of interactive design out of the equation. When I was first recruited by iXL it was because I was a broadcast designer, and because I understood things like motion, and visual and auditory feedback. Sure, part of what I was doing was making sites more usable by giving users clear feedback about what they could click on, and clue them in to what would happen if they did click on it, but it was also about trying to make the then static, boring web a bit more exciting, and tv like. Not slapping on motion for motion's sake (which to me was the problem with splash screens, and so much early flash stuff) but to make the web a more pleasant, enjoyable, fun experience. I think most sr. level, intelligent people who do what I do know that there are many different components to a great UX, and usability is only one.

(Whoops, I originally said this was Jesse James Garrett's but it turns out it's Peter Morville's. Heh... (sorry Jesse and Peter...) ... thanks for the correction JJG! )

Usability is only one aspect of the whole. A UX needs to tackle all of the above:

  1. useful
  2. desirable
  3. valuable
  4. accessible
  5. credible
  6. findable
  7. and last but not least usable

ANYWAY, not to get up on my soap box, but that's what I think about this issue/debate... and I think the guy is absolutely right, there is a tension between usability and disruption... but that shouldn't mean that there is then an inherent conflict between disruption and UX.

AND, (last thing I'll say on the subject)... I actually don't think that disruption is the right way to think about what the goals of most agencies are either. I think it's an easy out. Like usability is to UX. Disruption is what we understand because that's what traditional advertising is. It disrupts an experience with another, louder, hopefully somewhat entertaining experience, so someone can get paid. But, well, for me, the idea of advertising/marketing offering some value or utility, is where we might think about the standard disruption experience evolving. If the disruptive experience becomes useful, then it's something that will be sought out, and it won't need to disrupt. Of course, this is a whole heck of a lot harder to figure out... just like making an experience usable, and desirable is harder to figure out... but that's what separates the true innovators in our fields from the dinosaurs who are 5 steps away from getting stuck in the tar pits.