Last week, I attended an event hosted by The Los Angeles User Experience Meetup at Cross Campus in Santa Monica. World renowned speaker and author, Eric Reiss presented the teachings of his new book, Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better. He is the Content Strategist and CEO of FatDUX, headquartered in Copahagen, Denmark, a global company specializing in user experience with offices worldwide in Los Angeles, Budapest, Zagreb and Prague.
Not to be confused with The Lean Startup’s Eric Ries, a thought leader in his own right, this Eric REISS shared his many years of experience on how to understand user’s needs, techniques for exceeding user’s expectations and how to improve the overall quality of a user’s experience. He joked about the huge turnout and people probably mistakingly going there for the “other” Eric. Though, it’s possible that some people were there because of the confusion, Reiss certainly pleased the crowd and kept them in their seats as his presentation with power point slides and funny pictures seemed more like a stand up improv than your typical business presentation.
I had a brief interview before the event got started with the very sweet and funny, Mr. Reiss. Here is a recap of his opinions of and experiences with UX.
What UX really is….OLD dog with NEW tricks
Reiss sees UX as something that has been done before. It has evolved over time and as such, has improved along the way. Reiss started with service design in the 1980s and thinks a lot of the things done then are the same things that people are doing now. “Things like touch point analysis: where do people interact with your brand? Social Media brings that to the forefront again because we’re [again] interested in the one to one interaction which was so terribly important back in the 80’s when companies were trying to optimize service.”
On UX not just being about websites
According to Reiss, UX is an umbrella that covers a multitude of things. “It’s not just about websites. It’s a whole bunch of different things including service design…that are all part of the UX.” Some call it service design or experience design or product design. He explains that everybody practices user experience, it just doesn’t have the same name. For example, if you look at Wikipedia and looked at the definition for ‘experience design’, it is very offline focused. On the other hand, when looking up the ‘user experience’ definition, it has a different set of authors and is very web focused. Reiss doesn’t agree with people that are separating one idea into two different subject matters. “It’s not the question of online or offline, it’s the question of what is the sum of the user’s perception or the customers perception after a series of interactions between people and people, people and machines, or between people and processes.”
What’s harming the business?
Reiss says that if there was anything harming the business would be the new comers coming to the field. “By newcomers, I don’t necessarily mean the young but those who suddenly see this as an opportunity and sort of hare off in their own direction and don’t realize that there are a lot of people that have done this before. They don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.” According to Reiss, many people have developed processes that have worked and have ben proven very successful which were done as early as the 60’s. “There are also a lot of history in other related industries that hasn’t really cross over to the online crowd yet.” Reiss suggests that people are just not doing enough research. “This talk of ‘new media’, which is actually not very new, has people thinking this is a different ball game. Human interaction is human interaction.”
Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants
“Digital natives [those of us who grew up with computers] are just as stupid as those of us that are digital immigrants and have just adopted this.” At the age of 58, Reiss is just as tech and internet savvy as the younger generation. He explains that he didn’t not grow up with computers as younger people have but he did work with different kind of computers [the big giant ones] back in the days. The problem now older people tend to think that they need to bring in young kids to help them with technology, particularly the internet and social media. “Bringing someone who’s in their 20s into your company to do social media doesn’t mean they can help you.” Reiss says that companies need to look at people based on their talents and not their age.
The biggest myth on User Experience
In terms of UX, Reiss says that right now everyone is focused on social media. In regards to that, the biggest myth that he sees is that social media is free when it isn’t. He finds it difficult to explain this to business leaders. Quoting another expert he says, “Social media is free like a puppy is free.” This means that if someone gives you a puppy for free, they’re really giving you thousands of dollars of expenses that will be paid through out its life. Being the owner, you’d need to invest in training, boarding, medical care, food and many other things. Social Media and social marketing is essentially the same concept. It’s not “free” just because you don’t pay to create a profile, instead it is an continual investment of sorts. “People tell me that you can always set up a free account. The problem is, how are you going to administer the site?” Reiss explains that if he spends an hour a day on social media, that equates to about a month of work and if you consider his salary, spending a month of social media makes it a very expensive expenditure on his business. “To say that it is free is absolute nonsense.” Another problem with social media, according to Reiss, is that a lot of marketers
see it as the end-all-be-all when they are still looking at target groups and traditional metrics. He says that social media is not a measure of demographics but a measure of behavior. “People are going to have a dialogue with your brand and you can accept that they are, or ignore it and hide…but the conversation will take place whether you contribute or not.”
To learn more on Eric Reiss’s usability thought process, you can purchase his book on Amazon. If you want to know more about UX in general and connect with UX experts, I suggest attending future events organized by the Los Angeles UX Meetup as they always organize amazing events and bring in great speakers.