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4 Key Questions to Ask to Ensure Positive User Experiences for your Consumer

Article Contributed By Todd Harple


Looking to create experiences for your consumer or brand? Todd Harple is a natural teacher and mentor, for over twenty years Todd has led product and research development efforts at the cutting-edge interface between people, technology, and business, leading the establishment of services and experiences that shape how we use technology today. Today he shares his words of wisdom about creating experiences:


In designing “experiences” for people as well as for other types of services, there are four key questions:


1. Who is my audience?

2. What is the experience I wish to enable?

3. How will I enable it?

4. How will I know if I have achieved my goals or how will I measure success?


Black woman laughing holding cell phone
Black woman laughing holding cell phone

For the first question, it may seem obvious for whom you are designing and I’m sure that you could easily provide a response off the top of your head that is an approximation. But by asking this question, I mean to really understand as best as possible from a holistic perspective who these people are, privileging THEIR perspective:


  • Who are they?

  • Where do they come from?

  • What is their world experience?

  • What does daily life look like from where they live?

  • What do they need and/or value?


These are critical components of designing experiences. If we take the perspective that we are aiming to design to meet the explicit needs and/or values of our target audience, we have a better chance of succeeding in developing solutions that will work in their world.


Next, you need to build a clear perspective or vision of the experience you are aiming to enable—

  • What might it look or feel like?

  • Can you make a low-fidelity prototype?

  • Can you act it out?


This is absolutely critical to beginning to frame up the structure of services, technologies, and interactions that may be involved. Sometimes answering this question can prove quite challenging. If you cannot envision the end solution, your chances of success I believe are much lower.


User experience graphic
User experience graphic

Finally, the third step builds off of the second. Once you’ve clearly outlined how that experience might look in the best-case scenario, you need to break down that experience into individual components to understand the business, technology, and user needs at fundamental levels. In particular, the global nature of the UN’s work makes it necessary to carefully consider not just the technical requirements, but also the social, political, and economic impacts of, for instance, selecting one platform over another as a simple example or selecting one or another technology hardware provider. How will it be seen by your participants? How will it be seen by the rest of the world?


Some recommended reading from Todd:

3 books to read for your audience:


Basic Design: Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things – A very good, basic primer about how we experience and interact with our physical surroundings and how design can make or break an interaction. As an anthropologist, I wasn’t exposed to this until much later on in my career and it left a strong impression on me in regards to making my social and cognitive insights more tangible and useful. Norman had a later book called Emotional Design, but I still think The Design of Everyday Things is a solid, must-read foundation.



Dev Patnaik’s Wired to Care – Provides an easy-to-read introduction to how empathy is central to who we are as human beings and can be leveraged in the service of good design. He uses examples of “empathic design” to illustrate success stories. I think some of these lessons are particularly relevant to those involved in learning, training, and other knowledge-sharing/knowledge-exchange environments.


The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

– This is an incredibly moving book (and indeed you can watch a video of the actual lecture on YouTube) by a professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. But this book is not so much about his work in Computer Science, but about the importance of overcoming obstacles, enabling dreams, and living life to its fullest. It's very inspirational and from time to

time I return to it to re-frame what I am doing and prioritize in both work and life.


3 must-read articles


1. One of my favorite articles is ‘The Hidden Biases in Big Data’ by an acquaintance at Microsoft Research, Kate Crawford. She points out how data as a derivative of human constructs and algorithms is indeed not scientific fact but subject to interpretation (http://bit.ly/17Nxg0l )



2. Another article that I think readers will find useful and interesting is ‘From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments by my friend and colleague Mike Wesch, an Anthropology professor at Kansas State University https://scottwortman.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/from-knowledgeable-to-knowledge-able-a-critical-summary/). In this article, Mike astutely assesses the challenges that educators of all sorts face in a new era of knowledge exchange and management.




3. There was a great collection of articles in the Summer 2009 edition of MIT’s Sloan Management Review (Volume 50 No. 4) dedicated to Design Thinking. While the design world may well be presently preoccupied with emotional design and big data, the articles in this review are an excellent introduction to ways to infuse design and design thinking into your everyday work practice from management to representing data. (http://sloanreview.mit.edu/issue/summer-2009/).

In particular, I recommend the articles by Norman, Tufte, and the interview with Nancy Duarte and Gary Reynolds.



3 websites:

1. http://scholar.google.com -This places much of the known world of literature at your fingertips. I start almost every endeavor here–don’t reinvent the wheel, build upon the knowledge of others!

Crash Course Youtube channel
Crash Course Youtube channel

2. http://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse – This is a novel and engaging approach to learning featuring one of my favorite vlogs (video bloggers) John Green. Learn about topics like history and chemistry in 10-15 minute chunks formatted in an engaging manner!


3. http://www.mentalfloss.com/ –Quirky and funny and full of facts you may never have known that you wanted to know! Another exa

mple of how knowledge exchange and learning can be fun and engaging!

Todd Harple, PH.D
Todd Harple, PH.D

Bio: Todd Harple, Ph.D. transforms insight into action. An innovation catalyst, strategist and cross-functional team leader, he develops new technologies, services, and concepts from insight into market-leading ideas, intellectual property, and products. From high tech to sports, fashion, healthcare, and community development, Todd is a proven resourceful thinker and empathic, flexible problem solver with an eye toward business outcomes. With a reputation for results, Todd advises senior leaders in established organizations as well as startups on research and innovation initiatives.

A natural teacher and mentor, for over twenty years Todd has led product and research development efforts at the cutting-edge interface between people, technology, and business, leading the establishment of services and experiences that shape how we use technology today. From IP content on the TV (his research enabled Intel’s first System-on-Chip design win in a Set Top Box in 2007) to the advent of smartphones, and wearables to today’s data economy, augmented reality and AI – his work has been both global and prescient across technology, fashion, fitness, sports, and retail and showcased at global events including the Olympic Games, New York Fashion Week and the Consumer Electronics Show.


Todd’s work has also been featured in leading business, technology, and design media including BBC, VentureBeat, Mashable, Business of Fashion, Engadget, Digital Trends, and Refinery 29. He has given talks, presentations, keynotes, and webinars at fashion, technology, design, and sporting industry events around the globe including in London, New York City, Paris, Stockholm, Milan, Lausanne, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.


How do you create "experiences" for your consumer? Let us know in the comments!


Check out a past Design Week Portland event featuring Fashion Tech Powerhouses; Crossing the Boundaries of Fashion & Technology


In this event, IFD brings together industry leaders in Fashion & Tech. Asher Levine, Billie Whitehouse, Francis Bitonti & Jim Chi chat with Dr. Todd Harple, Director of Experience & Innovation, Olympic Technology Group at Intel






Looking for a place to call your community? Check out our ifd Connect Community; here you can join other like-minded creatives striving to connect, support, and make a positive impact.


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