Designing experiences, not just features


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Sharing some design thoughts about a recent experience with the Nissan Altima keyless system.

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Designing experiences, not just features

  1. 1. Designing Experiences Not just features Amir Khella
  2. 2. First, a story.
  3. 3. Earlier this week, I flew to Seattle to meet a client. Photo Courtesy of Google
  4. 4. I rented a car at the airport. And I was given a nice 2007 Nissan Altima Photo Courtesy of
  5. 5. My car at home is a 2003 Toyota. And I once forgot to lock the trunk and had few valuables stolen.
  6. 6. That Nissan came with keyless ignition.
  7. 7. Photo Courtesy of At first glance, the start button looked confusing. I felt that I needed to learn a new language to drive the car.
  8. 8. But I figured out by trial and error how to make it run and I drove to my destination.
  9. 9. When I arrived, I unplugged the key and locked the car.
  10. 10. But...
  11. 11. Having had a bad experience in the past, I wanted to double check the trunk was locked.
  12. 12. It wasn’t!
  13. 13. In fact, all doors were still unlocked!!
  14. 14. I pressed the lock button again then tried once more.
  15. 15. Same thing! I could open all doors after locking the car!
  16. 16. I became frustrated. Was something wrong with the car? Was I doing something wrong?
  17. 17. Then I looked at the keys, and decided to wear my designer hat for a minute.
  18. 18. So I went and hid the keys behind a bush and returned to open the trunk.
  19. 19. Success! The trunk was locked. Conclusion: The car has a proximity sensor.
  20. 20. So I walked to my meeting, blaming myself for not being up to date with recent car trends.
  21. 21. So, what happened?
  22. 22. The car had a new feature* that altered a common experience. *new to me, that is.
  23. 23. It provided a solution for some common problems. But the solution wasn’t intuitive.
  24. 24. It created a new mental model for locking and unlocking the car. But it didn’t provide cues to transition from the existing model.
  25. 25. It failed to create cause/ effect relationship between where the key was, and when the car could be unlocked without it.
  26. 26. It left me blaming myself for not being smart enough to figure out how it worked.
  27. 27. And worst of all...
  28. 28. The bottom line: Nissan introduced a new feature. One that I absolutely loved once I got used to. But it ignored my existing habits and behavior. And my first experience was one of a total frustration.
  29. 29. How could they have done it better? And how you can avoid doing these mistakes in your own products.
  30. 30. 1. Create a consistent visual language. And use color coding to indicate functional coupling Suggested graphics on the back of the remote keys.
  31. 31. 2. Use further cues to enforce certain associations. If the key made a short vibration or beep in my pocket when I opened the door or turned on the car, I would have instantly created a mental association between the key location and what I just did.
  32. 32. 3. Understand and respect the user’s existing habits. Habits create strong mental models, and shape our decisions. Rather than breaking the user’s habits, help her transition to the new ones.
  33. 33. 4. Prototype new features and observe how new and existing users use them. If your product targets a wide range of demographics, make sure you test enough segments.
  34. 34. 5. If it the user’s fault, then it’s probably your fault. Never let a user feel bad about himself. Instead, make them feel that they are much smarter than they thought.
  35. 35. 6. Don’t do this! Forget manuals and documentations. No one has time for them. Instead, make your design self explanatory.
  36. 36. This incident reminded me of an old joke about a guy who bought a private jet and instructional CDs on how to fly. Listening to his audio guide, he started operating the jet and was thrilled that he could take it off the ground. In mid-air, his audio CDs concluded with a message informing him that landing instructions were sold separately.
  37. 37. Ready for more design stories? Join the design thinking conversation at the upcoming design thinking webinar Amir Khella User Experience Guru