Five quotes on user-experience from surprising sources

29 Jul 20154 minutes read

The internet is a landfill of inspirational quotes and Twitter fodder about creating a good user-experience

The internet is a landfill of inspirational quotes and Twitter fodder about creating a good user-experience — mainly from proven masters in the field such as Don Norman, Steve Jobs, Dieter Rams and Jonathan Ive. However, sometimes you find inspiration in unlikely areas, so I thought I’d jot down a small list of quotes that continue to be useful for me when working on projects involving technology and humans.

“Better is often the enemy of Good — and Best can be enemy of both, as it always comes too late.”

Arthur C Clarke

I read this in an Arthur C Clarke book, but I think he based it on an original quote by Voltaire. While Mr Clarke was referring specifically to how technological products should be developed, it’s obviously applicable to UX projects. The classic case of wanting to load features into a project can sound like a good idea as people want features right? Wrong, people want something in front of them now, not something that’s delayed because its undergoing improvements before its even launched.

“When thinking about the future, people always think about technology and about what technology is rather than what the human experience with technology is.”

KK Barrett, designer on 'Her' movie

This could explain why we’re still waiting for jetpacks. The technology might be available now, but after the initial fun of flying around would they really be adopted by the masses? Ok, you may not be with me on that one, but witness the beautiful synchrony of human and technology in ‘Her’ and you’ll see that designing a great experience doesn’t mean throwing out the old, it means creating something that invisibly helps people achieve their goals and get on with their life ­– even people who want to get it on with their operating system.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I prefer this over other quotes extolling the virtues of keeping things simple as I feel the second part of the sentence is important for UX. People still need to be able to achieve their goals, so it’s not just a case of taking things away to create an ‘empty’ or ‘clean’ design aesthetic. Rather, what are the bloated and possibly internally driven features that don’t help the user? It strengthens the need for creating a good set of jobs to be done, personas or user journeys from which you can make decisions on what to leave out.

“Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.”

Benny Hill

From the master of chasing bikini-clad women around trees comes this gem of a quote. It reminds me to look at areas of a project that may not be screaming for attention, but could actually be the secret of creating a better journey for the customer.

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand

Leaving my favourite for last. It encapsulates so much of how I feel about what I do. I don’t start thinking about user-experience at nine o clock and stop at six, I think about it constantly, wherever I am. Not necessarily about my projects, but about why tap designers have a penchant for hiding the information about how to get hot and cold water out; why washing machine controls have so many options when most people use the same setting their entire life; why town planners don’t think about where people will actually walk when designing walkways and even why most remote controls have a little drawer of hidden buttons that nobody knows what they do. It may drive my girlfriend mad, but my attitude of questioning everything is something I do as a person — it just happens to help with my work too. Well, most of the time.

I’m sure there are lots of other good quotes out there from various sources, but these resonate for me. I’d love to hear others that create a stirring in your UX loins.