In my last post I wrote about the importance of words.
I actually set out to write about a handful of words that have meaning for me. Words that, through their introduction into my consiousness, changed my course of action. Some of these words came to me via Peter Morville. Which is how he, inadvertently and unknowingly, changed my life.
Of course the words themselves are only symbolic of concepts, so it’s the concepts that are meaningful. But hearing the words validated that other people were thinking critically about concepts; trying to understand them. These words gave life to half-formed thoughts in my mind. Brought me to destinations I hadn’t yet arrived on my own. Maybe never would have. New neural pathways were formed, so I followed them, never sure where they would take me. It was only about a year ago that I realized a system of networks had formed in my mind; there was convergence between my knowledge, my experiences and my relationships. For the first time I saw something different: all these things related to each other!
When I first read (and a few months later wrote about) his post entitled Ubiquitous Service Design, what struck me about it (and why I’ve read it about 20 times since then) was the introduction of concepts, how they were related, the need to reframe these concepts and the clarity with which they were explained. I printed the treasure map image and posted it up the honeycomb. By then I’d been through two iterations of the chapter I’d written using the seven dimensions of user experience as a basis for a multi-faceted performance measurement framework so I was ready for something new to obsess about.
Over time, I gained hands-on experience with every one of the treasures on the treasure map. Not that I set out to do so; I put those tools in my toolkit because intuitively they felt right, partly because it re-iterated my own experience, and partly because of the logic with which they were described. When the time came to use each one; I was glad they were there.
I read a lot: books and blogs written by knowledgable and interesting professionals for whom I have a lot of respect. I have integrated their experiences and teachings into my work, hung their diagrams on my office walls; pondered phrases and findings. However, there is something almost prescient about my connection to Morville’s work. When I accidentally discovered this treasure trove of search patterns Morville was curating on flickr, I told my boss “There’s a secret hiding in there for me.” I didn’t know until some of my more experienced interaction design colleagues started working on our own set of design patterns what power they could behold. I didn’t even know what design patterns were! When he presented in my hometown, they story arch was of the long view. His narrative was rooted in history, relevant now, and was only going to get more important as terabytes of information became available to relatively unsuspecting Web users of the future.
The terms I learned from Morville reveal an evolution of not one profession, but a variety of specializations that are now broadly referred to under the umbrella term User Experience. Don Norman may have been using that term long before I’d ever heard it; but Morville gave it to me. And I’m not the only one; a whole generation of professionals has been influenced by his writing (he co-wrote THE polar bear book for gawd’s sake).
Maybe it’s a coincidence (I mean, he’s only human right?) that the progression of terms and discoveries that Morville has written about have lead somewhere and continue to do so. He’s had the foresight to anticipate changes in society and the insight to consider how our professions need to adapt to these changes. He wrote:
This begets the question: how can we strike a balance between mediumism and imperialism? The solution requires recognition that user experience is a practice led by T-Shaped People. None of us are experts across all media, but today’s environment demands a multi-channel, cross-media perspective. If we approach this challenge with courage, humility, and a willingness to collaborate with and learn from others, we can play an important role in helping people to design from the outside-in and create beautiful seams in today’s ubiquitous era.
I found these words online when I was looking for other things, which speaks to the influence of sharing your own experiences online. And although I’m not sure what kind of impact sharing my experiences will have; I continue to feel compelled to do so. Learning from others’ experiences and collaborating with people way smarter than I am has led my career down a path I couldn’t have anticipated. While I wouldn’t yet call myself a designer, I certainly see myself drawn to this amazing opportunity to design things that get used.
Shout-out to Rob Woodbridge for asking me when I first realized I was doing “User Experience”. I think it might have only been today.