Critique of technology-driven ‘user experience’

June 13, 2008

“Computer manufacturers aspire to designing computers as full-fledged’ consumer products and as part of that process they are concerned with creating the total user experience. Employing the phrase “user-experience design” as a reminder or motivator to designers to pay attention to people’s experience of technology is one thing. Employing the phrase to indicate that a particular user experience can be designed is another thing altogether. The latter suggests a return to the simplicity of a technologically determinist position on what experience is. This neglects the agency of people interacting with technology, a focus that has been hard won by the likes of Lave and Suchman. While giving those who use “experience design” and similar phrases the benefit of the doubt, it is part of the job of a book that claims to examine experience of technology to take the language of user experience seriously. For example, the Apple Macintosh Developer page defines “User Experience” as “a term that encompasses the visual appearance, interactive behavior, and assistive capabilities of software.” The orientation to user experience here is technology driven. Although the authors are interested in enriching user experience, they have a technological vision of how this can be achieved. Their approach is similar to the approach described in many books on designing web site user experiences. For example, although Garrett (2002) attends to both business and user needs in his book directed at improving user experience of web sites, his attempt to resolve them depends on a conceptual integration of information design, information architecture, and interface design.”

From: Mc Carthy, J. and Wright, P. (2004), Technology as Experience, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, p. 9-10

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