Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Users Kicking Ass

Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users hits the nail on the head with her brilliant post, Can you have too much ease-of-use? Kathy's answer—and I wholly agree—is yes, indeed, you can make things too easy. People find value in things that provide continuous challenge. Accomplishment and constant growth is the root of passion. Kathy sums it up like this:
[G]ive your users an "I kick ass" experience, and you'll greatly increase the chances that they'll become passionate.
Users kicking ass. I love it! A child jumping and dancing around the room after conquering a once-insurmountable challenge on your site's game. A technophobic adult basking in the success of posting the family's vacation photos online for the first time. An administrative assistant successfully arranging the boss' intricate travel plans at the last minute. They all kick ass. They all feel alive. They will all visit your site again. Enthusiastically.

It's more than just elation. We're hard-wired for continuous challenge. It's in our DNA. It accounts for our survival as a species. It may very well be our greatest asset but is easily forgotten in the cushy life of the developed world. No wonder Xtreme sports are the rage; we've got to go to the edges to satisfy our innate need for challenge.

Overcoming continuous challenge is the human condition. It's rooted in our souls and spirits. Look at the great myths and stories of our world. Joseph Campbell demonstrates that they take a similar form—the Hero's Journey, a constant struggle against ever-greater adversity that results in personal transformation. Or take George Leonard's invaluable Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fullfillment with its emphasis on journey, perseverance, surrender and transformation.

Usability, a readily-grasped information architecture, intuitive interaction design, attractive visual design—these are prerequisites to adequate user experiences, but on their own will never produce the passion arising from a great UX. Taken to an extreme, they can even diminish or destroy the experiences users seek.

We do our users (and ourselves) a disservice when we assume that a powerful UX is the result of technique, of the application of certain principles and practices. That's where we are today. Check out Amazon's listing of books on Web usability and Web user experience. Nearly 50 books (many of them outstanding), yet not one explores the inner world of UX—the psychological and spiritual, the depths of the heart where passion is born, where experience is fully felt.

We're still in the infancy of Web UX. Does that get your passion burning?

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