Monday, March 26, 2007

Are you experienced? And if so, is it good? (AKA - the connection between produce stands and Web design explained)

Sunday morning, Westborn Market, Royal Oak:

Have you ever had one of those great grocery shopping days? This was one. After a visit to Trader Joe’s - a must for a wide variety of inexpensive organic foods (Zilla, I even picked up a boxed spelt dish, just out of tribute to you!), high-quality reasonably priced fish and a large selection of very good table wines for under $10 and often under $5 - we had made our way to Westborn Market for produce.

Given the choice, I prefer to go to Detroit's Eastern Market for produce. Everything is fresher, mostly organic, and cheaper. Plus it's just more fun to wander an open-air market, buying your produce from stalls, than it is going to a store. But we didn't have the time to go to the market this day.

It was one of those perfect shopping experiences. There was great music, with Lily Allen and The Decemberists playing on the in-store P.A. There were awesome samples of gourmet cheese throughout the store, enough that we pretty much had lunch there, and the place is just laid out beautifully, with heaps of great-looking produce, and a gourmet deli where we snagged a couple of pre-made chef salads to carry for lunch today.

As I was standing next to the coffee area, smelling the wonderful way the fresh bourbon pecan roast smelled, I remarked to Nicole that this store offered up a fantastic user experience. Her reply, after she laughed at my comment, was, "why don't you improve your user experience by going over there and getting some green onions?"

That's an inside joke that maybe only those in the ad/design industries will appreciate, but "user experience" really is a big deal to everyone, even if they don't realize what it is. Specifically, it's often used to relate to Web sites, but it essentially relates the idea that it doesn't matter how great something is if the people who use it don't enjoy using it, or can't use it easily.

Ergonomics is a similar idea, but less of an abstract ideal than user experience. Think about how user experience works for you. Think about those stores that have great products or great prices, but you hate visiting because you can't find anything or because the salespeople aren't helpful. Or those restaurants with great food but lousy service (or vice versa). The Secretary of State's Office with its long lines and indifferent employees, and even that road that gets you to work or school each day but is always under construction or crippled to a snail's pace by traffic. All of these are things that offer bad user experiences.

I really think that anyone who's in a field that doesn't deal daily with the concept of user experience could really benefit by taking a seminar on the idea (But not a boring seminar. Boring seminars offer a... that's right... a bad user experience). Imagine if more places realized that not only should they offer a service, but they should offer that service in a simple and pleasant fashion? Do you realize how less stressful things would be if that was the focus?


Jennifer said...

THIS is PRECISELY why I prefer the ACE on Centre St as opposed to the ACE on Front St! I was trying to explain it to Pippi, who thought I was nuts! "So WHAT if the layout is better? Who CARES how 'friendly' the semi-retired staff of knowledgeable gentlemen is? They both carry the same STUFF, and Front St is closer to your house." Pippi probably buys her produce at Meijer. Not that there's anything wrong with that, especially if she needs drill bits and finishing nails too, except that Meijer delivers a lousy USER EXPERIENCE!

I miss Westborn. I used to stop in weekly, strolling home from the zoo (two seater stroller; one seat for Gina, one for veggies). The only part of zoo day that I didn't consider a fabulous user experience was crossing Woodward at Catalpa trying not to bruise my baby or my green leafies in the two light-change process. Truly harrowing, but the zoo and Westborn Market were worth it :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree. Just imagine how much better the world would be if for one day - just one day - everyone who had a hand in the UE at their workplace really focused on making it easy and enjoyable for their users.