Or you can think of this another way, all the little details add up to create a great experience.

In an interview for the New York Times, the actor Kevin Bacon was asked about his work as a director. He said:
“To me, directing is telling a story. All day long, that’s all I do—in every single detail. Is she using a pencil, or is she using a pen? And what story do you want to tell with that? You see, you tell all these little stories in the course of a film, and then hopefully it all wraps up into one big story.”
Kevin Bacon, quoted in “As for Directing, It’s Telling a Story” by Dave Kehr, New York Times, December 30, 2003


Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. Logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from subjective emotions. Stories capture the context, capture the emotions. Logic generalizes, stories particularize. Logic allows one to form a detached, global judgement; story- telling allows one to take the personal point of view, to understand the particular impact the decision is apt to have on the people who will be affected by it.
Don Norman, Things That Make Us Smart [1994, p. 129]


I forget where I got this, perhaps from the Experience Economy.

A goods business charges for distinctive, tangible things.
A service business charges for the activities you perform.
An experience business charges for the feeling customers get by engaging it.


This bit of futurism from 2008 can be seen in much of the software I use.

We are going to soon carry out sports activities with our friends even when they are not in the same physical place as we are. More generally, computers will be increasingly used to persuade us to physically exercise and to make exercise more fun. At CHI 2008, Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller and Stefan Agamanolis have organized the workshop on Exertion Interfaces which is taking place today, and I asked them four quick questions before the workshop start. Luca Chittaro: EXERTION INTERFACES. An interview with Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller and Stefan Agamanolis


It’s not strategy

Michael Bierut, a respected visual designer, said this about luck during an interview with Adaptive Path founder Peter Merholz:

“It’s a dirty secret that much of what we admire in the design world is a byproduct not of ‘strategy’ but of common sense, taste, and luck. Some clients are too unnerved by ambiguity to accept this and create gargantuan superstructures of bullshit to provide a sense of security.”

From Mental Models by Indi Young


Experience Design is a team sport

Anyone can design experiences, the difficulty lies in designing and creating great user experiences – the latter requires a variety of disciplines and skills. This can prove difficult as we see departments and disciplines fighting over ownership of the ‘customer experience’ from design and IT through to marketing and branding. But designing great experiences is a team sport requiring responsive rugby squads rather than process driven relay teams. In this presentation Leslie will discuss why UX teams should look beyond the obvious UX players and create cross-departmental rugby teams.


Paper vs. Pixels: Print and Digital Experiences are Complementary

The spatial memories seem to translate into more immersive reading and stronger comprehension. A recent experiment conducted with young readers in Norway found that, with both expository and narrative works, people who read from a printed page understand a text better than those who read the same material on a screen. The findings are consistent with a series of other studies on the process of reading. “We know from empirical and theoretical research that having a good spatial mental representation of the physical layout of the text supports reading comprehension,” wrote the Norwegian researchers. They suggested that the ability of print readers to “see as well as tactilely feel the spatial extension and physical dimensions” of an entire text likely played a role in their superior comprehension.

Paper vs. Pixel.


A Chiang Mai massage as a narrative for experience design

I was in Chiang Mai on vacation and had planned on visiting my favourite spa in the evening after a day of walking. I called the spa at about 1pm and was greeted with a friendly voice who spoke great English. I enquired about having an appointment that night and she said that it would be no problem and that she would have someone pick me up at my guest house and take me to the spa. That way I would save the trouble of finding a tuk-tuk or taxi.
A driver arrived at the guest house at about 8pm and drove me to the spa which was about a 10 minute drive away. I opened the door and entered the spa where I was greeted by a beautiful young lady wearing traditional Thai costume, who invited me to have a seat and served me tea. All the while making small talk and continuously showing the smile which Thailand is so famous for.
At this point I began to notice the environment of the waiting area. The furniture was comfortable, the room temperature was cool ( a contrast to the night air), the lighting was dimmed, the decore itself could be described as Thai. modern with warm earthen colours. The environment was designed to put you at ease.
My masseuse came out about 5 minutes later and greeted me with a ‘wai’ and asked me to please follow her to where she was going to give me the massage. At this point we were walking through a small secluded garden, it was dark outside and because the sky was cloudy there were not a lot of stars. Along the pathway there were lit candles guiding the way and you could smell the subtle scent of jasmine in the air. At the end of the pathway was a small, covered area, quite secluded and quiet and lit only by candlelight.
My masseuse asked me to please have a seat while she poured me a fresh cup of tea and turned on some very light relaxing music. Always speaking in very soft, soothing tones she preceded to give me a wonderful massage. During this massage, a very light rain started to fall, creating an interesting cascade of sound on the leaves in the garden further enhancing the overall experience.
At the end of the massage, the greeter came out to the massage area with an umbrella and took the masseuse and I back into the small building that housed the waiting area. I then paid a very reasonable fee and was given a drive back to my guest house where I preceded to have the best sleep of my life.
I like to use longer versions of this story to help illustrate how we can create wonderful experiences for our customers and though a leap this can translate to both online and offline interactions.
Creating a quality experience is conscious, not accidental. It can be designed, architected, engineered, crafted. Attention to detail is essential, as is empathy to your customer.
Experiences have an attraction, engagement, and a conclusion. They have a beginning, middle, and an end much like the experience I related above.
The spa in this story has long since closed. Great experience design unfortunately doesn’t always translate into long term business success. I met the proprietor, Khun Kitima, by chance at a Bangkok restaurant years ago and she stated that she was opening a ‘eco-friendly’ range of guest houses in the North. I haven’t looked them up yet but if they are anything like her spa, which was frequented by Angelina Jolie no less, it would be a worthwhile place to stay.