What An Architect Can Teach You About User Experience



I have found it immensely interesting as I’ve witnessed the world of technology move from a world of steep learning curves and enormous manuals (though they still exist) to one where everyone wants new users to pick up how their products work with the snap of a finger. As a kid, I’d see a ton of products labeled “user-friendly” but you had to go through hundreds of menus or even get a PhD to execute a particular action. Painful! Things have gotten better these days but they still have a long way. From articles I’ve read, the job of accomplishing a great user experience falls on the shoulders of the designer. Unfair. Eye candy seems to be the solution for every terrible user experience. We just throw an amazing façade over the product, delight customers visually while they have no idea the horrors that await them within. So how do we solve this problem? It starts with you.

Minimum Viable Sketch
It starts from the second the idea pops into your head. It must then move to paper or whatever medium you’re comfortable in drawing with. This I will call a “Minimum Viable Sketch”. The sketch will evolve over time as the goal becomes clearer from asking yourself questions.

Grow With Questions
People ask questions but don’t dive into the horrors those questions might present. In architecture, we’re trained to ask questions that will make you uncomfortable. How do we do that? We start with “How?”, “What?”, and “Why not?” How can I make my building breathe? What will people do in this space? What do I want them to experience? How do I make them best experience it? How do all these help my design/ product? Questions like these focus the mind.

Embrace the Frustration
Ideas might just keep rushing and as you put them down, you might have days that you just can’t figure a way to connect these processes without compromising the other. Things will become frustrating but it is from that frustration something beautiful emanates. Embrace the frustration.

Design for Unlikely Users
You must look at each part of your product as a space a user will have a wholesome experience in. How will the user feel in every step? In my opinion, the best way to provide a great user experience is to assume your product will be used by someone who is impatient. I have found these groups to be amongst the people above 50 and children younger than 5. They don’t want the hassle involved with a learning curve. They want it to work and be easily understood (check the new US Playstation Store or the Youtube app on the console as well.) With this demographic in mind, even though they don’t belong to your target market, you whittle your product/ service until it is easily understood and easy to use. For me, that’s my mum. She cares for nothing about technology so as I build my product, she is my target audience when it comes to user experience. I want using my product to seem second nature.  I was told once in school “the best floor plans are the ones that require no signs to tell the user where to go”. Let your interface feel natural.

Ogaba Agbese is an architect in training, a poet. Founder and CEO of TreeJump, a nostalgia engine currently in the works.

This piece was first published on Entrepreneurs Unplugged.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Tods Outlet says:

    Thank you! I really appreciate your article, in fact I think you deserve a thumbs up.

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