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HooRay for User Experience!

Ron and I had the pleasure of attending Adaptive Path’s UX (User Experience) Week in San Francisco last month. As the title implies, this annual conference focuses on user experience which, as defined by, is a term used to describe the overall experience and satisfaction a user has when using a product or system. That may not sound exciting to you, yet if you recall the difference between an exceptional customer experience or a terrible customer experience, for example when taking your car to the auto mechanic, it probably matters to you more than you realize.


Adaptive Path’s purpose statement is “We help companies create products and services that deliver great experiences that improve people’s lives.” I love the idea of providing and receiving services that deliver great experiences and improve lives. I was very inspired by attending the UX Conference. This was due to the presenters, the participants, but most importantly for me, the depth, power and simplicity of the content shared in each presentation. Here are some of the highlights, through my eyes….

Don Norman is father of the term “user experience” and the author of several books including The Design of Everyday Things, and the recently released The Design of Future Things. Some of the thought he shared includes:

  • Design + good operations = perfection
  • Service is all about good operations.
  • Always ask for feedback about what you are doing or creating; this is a critical part of producing exceptional experiences for people.
  • Focus more on “sociable design.” Currently, devices do not all work together. People multi-task every day, so the design of things should work to support that.

Indi Young is author of the book Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior. She is known for her mental models, which have helped both start-ups and large corporations discover and support customer behaviors. Here are some of the ideas we explored together:

  • Mental models are a conceptual representation of the underlying reasons that drive people’s behaviors.
  • Important in this process is to get to know your target audience and understand where their motivation lies by way of creating mental models.
  • In creating the best product for your client, you ultimately want to discover what is driving the person’s behavior and then find ways to support those behaviors.
  • To find out exactly how to work the process with your target audience and create mental models, I highly recommend reading Indi’s book!

Scott Griffith, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Zipcar, talked about user experience as an integral part of their Mission Statement. One of the many things I loved learning about Zipcar is how they frame their service: “To enable simple and responsible urban living.” It’s about life-style. It’s about customer experience. In order to accomplish this, they began by creating a company foundation based on core values.

  • Zip Car started with a vision to create “unparalleled user experience”.
  • The core values are embodied by both the employee and clients.
  • The core values drive a culture of high performance service.

The values are then supported through concise, simple, direct principles such as:

  • Ask for member feedback and input
  • Have constant internal alignment on priorities
  • Employ consistent, simple communications with clients
  • Remember that the total experience means everything to the client!

The net result for Zip Car is a business and product based on simplicity and integrity.