Designing user experience or virtual reality: Get out ?
As the Indian startup ecosystem has evolved to a point where the buzz and hype around UX talent is settling down, UX design and experience seem to get fairly standardized, especially in the ecommerce space. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) are the buzz words, so now where is UX design? Any innovation happening there?
Well, as consumers seek newer experiences, even on the desktop or mobile interface or as we speak about VR or AI, getting to understand the evolving tastes of user experience is a continual design process. Yet many of the design talent seem to be trapped in their office building doing web research, dip stick study or studying/ generating user profiles. Many UX designers are also looking at opportunities in VR or AI, trying to leap frog with technology innovation and design process. Can UX designers make that switch?
A simple exercise which we found very helpful for designers who want to understand user experience or virtual reality is getting out of the building!
We organize these focused Design Walks in traditional, crowded spaces in Bengaluru, and follow up with a design thinking workshop for designers and strategists who need to exercise all their senses to warm up towards understanding user experiences. The learning for us by facilitating such workshops was immense and here is why we recommend anyone who wants to visualise user experiences to try this exercise:
Physical exercise improves cognitive thinking
As physical exercises improve mental health/ brain function, creativity and cognitive thinking, there are many online sources that validate this idea. Designing and making a product with your own hands or the “physicality of creating a product” has multiple impact on our lateral thinking abilities, imagination, problem solving approach and cognitive thinking. Studies and research have demonstrated how exercise your physical body leads to synthesizing creative ideas that aim at innovative user experiences. Immerse yourself in physical activities but create an objective/ brief before the exercise to track a conscious effort to absorb the physical process.
Experiences are multi-dimensional
Experiences are multi – dimensional which also means multi-sensorial. This is often ignored where the focus has generally been on 1 or 2 senses in creating experiences but experiences are nuance at multiple levels with direct and indirect impact. Sound, taste, smell and touch are senses that can be played at different levels to build new experiences, distinct experiences that have limitless opportunities for designers to envision new ideas. During our walk, the hyper physical environment provides these stimulations to push the participants to focus and try hard to separate each sense, recognise and process it to create insights. This creates cognitive alertness, awareness of sensorial impact and translating sensorial experiences to contextual user experiences. The exercise can be split into various forms of combination, isolations or integration of multiple senses to create unique experiences. There are many online resources and tips that reiterate some of our approach.
Real experience can teach you about virtual experience
As much talked about virtual experiences and virtual reality, the conversations have emerged around integral reality of merging the physical and virtual reality. Startups are already creating products that are evolving new innovations at a rapid pace; the talk has also been about how design can integrate the emotional connection to such experiences. Designers need not just research and execute such innovations but reflect and collectively think about the impact of such technology. The real experiences still remain the strongest link and also in the form of multiple memories that contribute to the current creative process. Hence, real experiences in new environments, in unfamiliar territories push us to learn and apply in creating virtual experiences.
A continual process of lateral thinking
Getting out of the building cannot be a one-time exercise. It is a periodic, disciplined and multi-layered exercise which needs to be a continual process for designers to learn and unlearn. This feeds in design process more data, experiences, connections that joins the dot to create lateral thinking approach to our solutions and ideas. UX design leaders, CTO and design teams need to make this a design “culture” to seek new experiences and make it a regular source of inspiration and learning.
I would recommend all designers to create a regular “ritual/ habit” of seeking new ways of stimulating their experiences in order to be inspired about innovative UX & VR ideas.
To begin with, startups and innovative tech companies in India have to recognise the need and invest resources to create a dynamic process for design led teams that creates a stimulating environment for innovation. And innovation cannot be learnt within a confined space on a daily basis. Take a design walk perhaps?