Delivery, inertia and the micro-experience in UX

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Micro experiences can be delightful artefacts to design and use. They are designed with care and crafting and seen as completely standalone pieces of functionality that are meant to delight in their simplicity and usefulness. But how standalone are most pieces of functionality? How often are these small, simple pieces of functionality part of a larger User Experience?

If you think of the pull-down menu on an iPhone, the pull down is a micro-experience. However, the act of swiping down is part of a journey of viewing notifications and viewing that days actions – and then of course editing or deleting them.

In fact, this micro-experience is a step in a journey that facilities a user being able to perform a number of tasks.

When micro-experiences represent stories in an agile backlog – and a number of these stories represent a journey or larger experience – what happens when the stories are designed and developed by different UX designers, visual designers and coded by different developers? Who owns the user experience of the entire journey?

I know many would argue this is the role of the product owner or manager. But what happens in a large organisation when it is decided that different aspects of the same piece of software, application or website are product managed by different teams and product owners? Or what if the organisation confuses product managers with project managers who are more focused on time, scope and budget and not necessarily fluent in the ethos of product design?

If the possibility of designing micro-experiences by different members of a team can cause slight variations in implementation, what happens when different design and development teams are responsible for the micro-experiences of different journeys?

The phrase ‘death by a thousand cuts’ comes to mind.

It’s no wonder that as Customers of apps, software and websites we often wonder why similar functions work differently. As Customers, we expect ‘like things’ to work in ‘like ways’.

And funnily enough, even though each individual piece of functionality might work beautifully in its own right, when taken as a whole, the dissonance between like implementations of functionality can cause a fragmentation in the experience and frustration for the user.

This is where pattern libraries should help to achieve a commonality in implementation of key, reusable functions. But how often do design teams talk about developing and using pattern libraries, and then either never quite get around to implementing them, or worse, implement them and then over time allow them to fall by the wayside because each team tries to bring their own uniqueness to a pattern, thereby creating many variations of the same pattern?

As designers and UX professionals we need to be better than this. We need to find a way not to allow inertia, laziness, or simply too much work distract us from creating beautiful micro-experiences that enable coherent, usable and delightful journeys.

As a general rule:

  1. Someone needs to own the over-arching UX of what is being designed and developed, and it needs to be someone who understand what it means to own the experience of a product
  2. User research should be a continuous part of the design process, and then key journeys should be tested periodically when live – because a continuous design and development program will lead to micro-fractures in key journeys over time
  3. Pattern libraries should be developed and agreed to by design and development teams – and when changes are made, they should be made to all pre-existing versions of the pattern to avoid introducing fragmentation through an evolution in a design pattern
  4. Teams should hold periodic planning sessions to discuss upcoming stories being played out in order to evolve how a UI works as a team – much like different musicians come together to form an orchestra.

Micro-experiences should delight, not accumulate and do harm, in much the same way that user experiences across different channels should come together to form a delightful Customer Experience.

Brands that understand this are rewarded with high levels of Customer engagement and brand affinity.

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