The God complex approach to UX

The God complex approach to UX

Joshua Porter on why designers aren’t creating experiences, we’re creating artifacts to experience:

[Frank Lloyd Wright] designed houses for a particular (in his view enlightening) experience. He designed all aspects of the house, from the large unified rooms to the built-in furniture to the small kitchen. As a house owner you could change very little. You want the furniture a different way? Too bad. You’re a foodie who wants to entertain in the kitchen? Not going to happen. Wright had already determined the experience you should have. 


[M]ost people who have actually lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house report that it’s not all that great. It’s too restrictive, too confining. What Wright saw as the ideal way to live isn’t the same as another’s ideals. Wright took his God complex too far…and built beautiful but not quite usable houses. 

Since no design survives contact with the user:

Designers do not create experiences, we create artifacts to experience. We create tangible things that people use over time. If someone using our artifact has a good time while using it, they might be said to have a positive user experience. But we cannot dictate this in the sense that Wright would have wanted. The experience (positive or negative) belongs to our users in the same way that a memory belongs to them.

Stewart Brand, in a talk I saw years ago, spoke of an approach that’s stayed with me. Months after work has been finished on a new structure, he makes a point of returning to do a walkthrough with the people who live there. Are the doorways in the right places? Do the windows open and close properly? The doorjambs line up snugly? The kitchen appliances where expected? It struck me that as designers, we don’t practice the same. We build and rarely return. As Josh states, we create artifacts to experience, as these need attention over time.