This presentation was given twice at the VISCOMM conferences in 1995 (once in San Francisco and once in New York City). It has also been built into a self-running interactive article. It allows the audience to explore the topic of creating experiences for others in a branching structure. In this case, the content (message) is more important than the structure itself. Some parts are self-running and linear, other parts offer choices for exploration. The topic, interaction design and performance is explored in different facets within the material.
I am going to ask your indulgence for a while. I want to set things into a new context. I want you to think about life in 100 years. Close your eyes if this helps and only listen, since the visuals aren't that important.
In 100 years, there will be no computers.
In 100 years, MPEG and QuickTime will be forgotten.
In 100 years, CD-ROMs will not exist (whether quad-speed or even faster).
In 100 years, there will be no Basic, C++, Perl, or HTML.
In 100 years, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers will (thankfully) be only a memory.
In 100 years, RISC chips will be extinct.
In 100 years, there will be no PowerBooks.
In 100 years, Windows® will not exist (Bob® should be gone in less than 5).
In 100 years, DOS will still be around somewhere.
In 100 years, there will be no Mosaic, Netscape, CompuServe, Prodigy, or America Online.
In 100 years, Barney will be extinct.
In 100 years, set-top boxes, ITV , and HDTV will be forgotten.
It is not that these things aren't important--to somebody, but they should not be important to you. These should not be foremost in your thoughts.
In 100 years, Dr. Seuss will still excite both kids and adults.
In 100 years, people will still buy, sell, and trade things that are important to them.
In 100 years, spirituality will still help people guide their lives.
In 100 years, sex will still hold its allure, excitement, suspicion, and danger.
In 100 years, there will still be intolerance, hatred, bigotry, and greed.
In 100 years, conversations will still illuminate, enrage, engage, and inspire.
In 100 years, creativity will be even more important.
In 100 years, art will still be revered.
In 100 years, AT&T will still be here.
In 100 years, people will still throw dinner parties,
In 100 years, travelers will still explore the world.
In 100 years, there will still be holes in the ozone layer.
In 100 years, people will still wait in lines.
In 100 years, some people will still find sports fascinating.
In 100 years, eating will still be our number one past-time.
In 100 years, musicians, athletes, performers, and other artists will still practice.
In 100 years, everyone will still find pleasure in playing.
In 100 years, people will still help each other.
In 100 years, life will seem just as complex and difficult to organize.
In 100 years, people will still fall in love.
You see, the art of interactive media is not about color schemes, textures, patterns, drop shadows, or beveled buttons. It isn't about illustrations, graphic design, or transitions. It is about the creation of experiences that inspire, compel, provoke, and communicate. It is about Interaction Design and the design of a total interface.
I am sure you all have seen beautiful things that didn't move you. I am sure that your eyes have been caught by the new or the unusual only to be disappointed at either the message or the experience. In truth, all are important: the message (or content), the experience, and its presentation, but the experience is what will make the difference in this medium. Unless we explore, experiment, and create new kinds of experiences, this medium will either become the Easy Bake Oven of our time, or be relegated to merely an extension of television.
Interface design isn't about icons and buttons any more than graphic design is about typefaces and decorative borders. They are both about creating experiences and communicating--whether it is emotions or information, or both. The "tricks" are merely tools with which to create the experience, and their meaning and language must be understood by the creator--you.
I am suggesting a new measure for you to use when evaluating your progress, your work. How will it be regarded in 100 years? Ask yourself what will be important about it in 100 years? Will it even matter? Will it still create the experience you intended? 100 years is a long time--especially in technology. But it's long enough to focus you goals and learn about what makes great experiences. People's interests haven't changed that much over the last 5000 years. What they like to spend their time doing, what experiences they find compelling and engaging hasn't changed as fast as the minutia of technology--and won't.
These are the questions you need to ask and answer when creating experiences:
What are the experiences that you treasure the most? Do they involve others? Were they times in which you made something? Showed something? Did something? Felt something? How would you describe that experience to me? Think about how you would you recreate that experience for someone else?
What kinds of experiences do people pay money for? Which ones do they pay the most for? Ask yourself why? Do they get to do something? Consume something? Be someone? Make something? Say something?
Are some experiences more valuable if their effects last longer?
Does the experience help them do something they otherwise couldn't? Or merely wouldn't?
There are those experiences in which people produce things. These include:
Processing, Analyzing, Brainstorming, Planning, Arranging, Organizing, Transforming, Building, and Preparing
whether it is food, shelter, work, play, communications, or feelings. What does your project allow people to make? Does it do it for them? Does it offer help? What is valuable about the final product? Is what they produce for them or for someone else? This is what humans are best at. We aren't as fast as some species, not as strong as others, and cannot process data as well as machines, but we are the best species at creating things.
There are those experiences in which people store things, whether they are jars, papers, boxes, or memories. Does your project help them store something? How do they retrieve it later? Are these things that they will want to remember?
There are those experiences in which people transmit things whether they are sending or receiving messages, freight, or emotions. How are the messages sent, and to whom? How are they received and understood? How are they encoded and do they need to be private or secure along the way? Do you need to help people form their message or express themselves?
Some experiences are about teaching, helping, advising, and facilitating. How do you do these things well? For different people? For people you will never meet? How can your project?
There are those experiences that involve performing. These include:
Simulations, Re-enactments, Pretending, Speaking, Telling, Showing, Singing, Dancing, Acting, Demonstrating, Testing, Playing, Competing, and Practicing.
Your project will always be performing, but how can it allow your audience to perform as well? Is your audience ready to perform? Are they willing? Do they need help? Encouragement? A net?
There are those experiences that involve consuming whether it is eating, drinking, listening, or watching. What differentiates valuable or successful forms of these experiences seems to be in what people take away with them once the experience is over. Perhaps they were entertained, perhaps they were inspired. Maybe they feel less alone, or more fulfilled. They may feel grateful, they may be outraged, they may be satisfied. Does your project have a voice? Is it provoking, active, entertaining, or inspiring? Exactly what is it your are saying to your audience and do they want to hear it?
Some of these experiences are richer because they combine several other kinds of experiences. Conversations are examples of this because they involve listening as well as sharing, thinking as well as acting, transmitting as well as storing. What are the best conversations you have ever had? What made them so memorable? So valuable? Was it because of the opportunity, the topic, the setting, the participants, what you learned, what you shared, or merely the experience--the interaction--itself? What kinds of conversations can your project provoke or facilitate? Are they with others? With the machine? Or in your audience's own heads?
Then there's waiting, which is what interactive media currently makes us do the most. Waiting for something to download, waiting for something to process, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the industry to become something more than a new way of selling the same old ideas.
What is it that is personal about your project--that makes it unique for your audience, that responds to them individually? Is it your voice or someone else's (in which case why are you promoting someone else's voice)? Does your project give your audience a voice? Does it help them use it? Does it respond to them differently than it responds to others? Does it treat them as if they are smart? Capable? Sentient? Alive? Are they a name? A number? Does it matter if they are even there? Is there a place for them at all?
Lastly, traveling is another experience. Most of us have heard that the journey is the reward, and if this is true, then what kind of journey are you taking your audience on? Where are you taking them and why? How are you going to get them there and are you bringing them back? And most importantly, what kind of journey are you on yourself?
Some of the key components for creating experiences are that they are creative (that they allow people to make something, communicate with others, share something of themselves, or offer help in the creative process), interactive (they don't require users to be passive and they encourage an reward initiative), and adaptive (they offer unique, personal experiences an treat each audience member differently based on their behavior and interests).
I can guarantee you that the more of these questions you can answer, the more successful you will be.
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