“Subject to Change” – Adaptive Path, 2008


I was very excited to read this book as Adaptive Path is a leader in insightful empathy and user experience design. This book gives a good overview of the company’s philosophy to strategy, emanating from an understanding of the users they’re designing for.

At the premise of this theory is a recognition that humans are often illogical, making decisions based on emotion — challenging modern business economic theory that we’re all logical, rational actors constantly maximizing utility, or ROI.  Therefore it’s not functionality per dollar spent that motivates our decisions, but our intangible emotional responses to our experiences.

I loved the book, my only complaint stems from wanting a more indepth explanation of creating an experience map as I had seen previously on their website.

Favorite Excerpts:

Experience design concentrates on moments of engagement between people and brands, and the memories theses moments create. – UK Design Council

We must understand people as they are rather than as market segments or demographics.

Empathy is being aware of, sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having those feelings, thoughts of experiences explicitly communicated to you.

[On HCI]: While this approach is an improvement over previous models, it still poses some serious problems. A focus on experience starts to show the shortcomings of the task/goal/preference model. We find it’s nearly impossible to talk about culture and meaning in terms of tasks and goals. Talking about behaviors rather than tasks allows us to include a much wider range of activities in people’s lives. Motivations lead to, drive, and shape behaviours.

[On Research]: It’s seldom about proving anything. Instead, design research helps establish the constraints and opportunities that make great design possible. [On Qualitative Research]: It focuses on process rather than outcomes — the how and why as opposed to the what, where, and when.

“Reports, where good insights go to die.”

Wilkens’ Law: The effectiveness of a research report is inversely proportional to the thickness of its binding.

The classic product designer mistake: they approach the addition of new functionality as simply a feature to check off a list of requirements.

To succeed, each customer-facing channel in an organization needs to stop being a walled-off silo, and become an instrument in a coordinated symphony that addresses the whole customer experience.

The true success of experience design isn’t how well it works when everything is operating as planned, but how well it works when things start going wrong.

Ultimately, instead of providing a seamless environment, you want to provide meaningful, beautiful seams into which people can insert themselves, customizing their experiences to suit their needs.

The ability to create a new technology isn’t synonymous with the ability to craft a desirable customer experience.

The key is to zero in on qualitative customer insights.

The more you add to a system, the more ways it can fall apart and confuse customers. It takes strength and perseverance to prevent systems from succumbing to feature creep.

Design is a way of approaching problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning that can yield better outcomes. It’s an open approach, and anyone in the organization can participate to generate solutions, make insightful and meaningful decisions, and build empathetic offers that address needs that customers may not even know they have.

When you try to control the interaction and tightly manipulate the outcome of the experience, customers tend to rebel.