If It's Too Loud, You're Too Old

My childhood house in Lansing was pretty fantastic. It was old, it was big, and I had the rad third floor largely to myself, which gave me endless opportunities for exploration. The wallpaper in the rooms was slathered with brown ships on a tan background. And the bathroom, wait for it, blue ships, on a pale blue background. Breathtaking. One of the overhead lights was a ship’s wheel. But what really complimented the overwhelming nautical theme was the poop brown (I’m telling you this because it’s honestly the best way to describe it, and trust me I tried) shag carpet. Aesthetics aside, the closets were massive and oddly shaped - ideal for clubhouses. I used my mom’s printer to make a super trendy clipart sign for the private entrance that read “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” Ironically, I pretty much used it for the sole purpose of reading. What a rebel. 

I used to think that my love of computers from an early age was the telltale sign I would someday become a UX Designer. But after having the opportunity of attending the Future of Web Design Conference for the second year in a row, I realized I was all wrong. The passion went back earlier than that, perhaps even to the crib.

I adore stories. I’ve always loved both reading and writing. I still remember when my parents got me a “build your own book kit,” where you wrote and drew whatever your little heart desired, and in turn the company published the book into an ultra professional and fancy masterpiece. My book was titled “The Painted Rainbow,” a compelling tale about a girl who’s rainbow sprung to life from her canvas in the basement…or something like that. I was in kindergarten so needless to say, I haven’t read it in a few years. 

But in all seriousness, the workshop was my absolute favorite part of the Future of Web last year, and with such high expectations, this years did not disappoint. I spent my day focussed on story telling, looking at how the movies get it right and ways that we can translate those skills to our everyday work as UXers. Here are the basic rules of thumb the lovely Lis Hubert and Donna Lichaw gave in regards to developing a good story.

Stories are character-driven.

Characters are goal-driven.

Goals can change.

Goals are measurable.

Conflict is key. Tension is good.

We spent a lot of time practicing the three different types of stories: concept, origin, and usage. I won’t break them down too specifically but essentially a concept story revolves around how someone thinks about a product or service. An elevator pitch if you will. An origin story follows how someone becomes a hero for a product, how they discover it. A usage story is about how someone engages with your product, and often focusses on a mini or micro interaction rather than the entire experience, say a sign up process for example. 

What I liked about this workshop was that the focus was always on the character. You didn’t jump to referring to people as users. You didn’t jump to abstracted problems. They weren’t customers. They were heroes. I think it’s easy to say that your goal is to understand user problems and best solve their needs. But sometimes we get so anxious to sense a pattern, a generalization, and run off to save the day. This workshop reminded me that without compelling character development, and a really climactic way of making your user feel like Harry Potter…we’re selling ourselves short. You never want to leave someone with a cliffhanger when you could knock it out of the park. And on that note, I’d like to leave you with my story drawing explaining why I completely and utterly despised the movie Gravity which, by the way, has a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes. And warning for those of you that have not seen this film, it is a spoiler alert.

Space is stunning, but without strong character development…I feel like the entire piece is just one big giant cliffhanger. Plus, I wanted to make a cool looking graph.

Samantha NovakComment