Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

The “Try It On” User Experience Method

One of my favorite moments is when my kids take over the kitchen. Last night, my 18 year old daughter and her boyfriend decided to make chocolate covered strawberries after we’d made a big dinner for everyone. They’d never done it before.

They went out to the store and bought chocolate chips and big, fat strawberries.

Back at the house, they dumped the chips into a pan and melted them. However, it didn’t have right consistency. It was too thick. So they put in some milk and kept stirring. It still wasn’t right. I didn’t do or say anything. It was fun to watch them figure things out. Finally, after a bit of despair, my daughter decided to throw out the melted chocolate and start over.

That’s when I leapt up in defense and took the pan from her as she was putting water into it. Boyfriend and I were determined to eat that chocolate and couldn’t believe she’d dream of throwing it out.

I poured out the water and her boyfriend and I managed to save the chocolate, which now, with the little bit of water in it, finally melted into a nice, smooth consistency.

They dipped in the strawberries. They dipped in bananas. They rolled trail mix around in it. When they were done, they marveled that some stores charge $3.00 for one chocolate covered strawberry and here they had made an entire pile of chocolate covered fruit and nuts for $4.00.

What’s more important, however, is that they created their own experience and learned from it.

MySpace for My Space

I’ve tried Facebook and Twitter because my friends were there and convinced me to try them out. For the past two weeks I’ve been playing around with a MySpace account I made for myself. I wanted to see what it was like.

I had also needed a place where I didn’t have to be “Kim the Usability Consultant” or “Kim from Cre8pc” or any other versions of me. I wanted a place where I could let down my shields and barriers. Where I’m purely, 100%, no holes barred me. I have one friend in MySpace.

He’s been teaching me about it. His group of friends thrive there. The 20’s and 30’s crowd are so inventive, clever, raw and bold. Nearly every female is showing her breasts. The males aren’t nearly so obsessed with their own bodies. They seem to go for mood or shock value. Some of the women are high maintenance and can’t decide who they are or what they want to show on any given day. Their picture changes every day and if you go to their profile, there are 300 more pictures of them, just in case you want to see her from every possible, conceivable angle.

It’s taken me the entire two weeks to figure out how to navigate MySpace. It took me two days to figure out I had a new message. Changing my profile was horrendous because I never remembered where things were. The user interface explodes with ads and videos. And most of the images belong to a generation I don’t belong to. They’re finding themselves.

I’m not lost. I belong in a different place.

The one element I do like is the ability to put up a song. This is something Facebook doesn’t have. While typically, usability folks think adding sound is akin to eating gravel, I think with MySpace it helps to tell the story of the person whose page you’re on. I happen to love “Alice”, one of Moby’s new songs and added it to my page. There are controls to turn it off if you want to. I like listening to the music selections put up by people however. It helps me understand a little something more about them.

As much as I might like the energy and vitality at MySpace, I also feel like I’m on the outside looking in. It’s definitely a great place for single people. I can see how it can be useful to groups of friends who like to be in constant touch with each other. But the user interface is like my daughter’s bedroom.

Complete and total chaos.

Sometimes it’s fun to try on a web site first to see if you like it. It helps you figure out what you like. It opens you up to what other people like you might gravitate towards. I find that when I explore like this, I’m more open minded about usability because I see different user interfaces and who responds to what.

And if I want to be a bare breasted free spirited woman in one of those sites, all the better.

My job could never be called “boring”.

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