Get Into Character: Using Method Acting in the UX Design Process

For many consumers, the primary interaction with a brand in the digital space happens on a mobile device.

And for most of these consumers, that interaction can happen almost anywhere at anytime. This new reality has shifted the basis of what User Experience Design means for designers and developers.  Now, when planning UI elements on a screen, we must consider the everyday situations facing our consumers and how those situations, and more importantly how they react to them could impact our ability to deliver a successful brand engagement.

So how can we put ourselves in our consumer’s shoes to better understand their wants, needs and expectations and craft user experiences that provide value to them when, where and how they want it?  The answer….GO HOLLYWOOD!

Actors are masters at becoming other people in a believable way.  It’s called “getting into character”. It is a skill that takes years of experience, dedication and practice.  The more they know about a character’s mindset, situation, mannerisms and personality, the better they can predict and demonstrate how the character would act in certain situations.  If executed well, it results in a believable portrayal that captivates and entertains us.

The big question is, what can we as designers and developers learn from our favorite professional pretenders to think and act like consumers?

The answer: go where the people are and observe.  If you’ve done your homework, you already know some information about your user from qualitative and quantitative research, consumer analysis and market research.  If you went for the extra credit, you might have also conducted ethnographic research, consulted behavior psychologists or spoken to cultural anthropologists to learn more about how people as a whole behave in society. But what I’m talking about is getting out and observing consumer firsthand.  Then embody their experience: imitate them, talk like them and empathize with their challenges.

After you come back from the field, review the situations your consumer will face and act out how the consumer will react to them with your design and development team. Just like an actor, put yourself into the shoes of your consumer and use what you’ve learned to predict how they will respond to each scenario.

Sound silly? It’s not.  Think about it. As interaction designers we do this often. We try to predict what consumers want so we can design interfaces to be more intuitive.  The more intuitive the design, the more positive the end experience.  So acting things out is just one more step in the user experience design process.

Break a Leg

The next time you are in the planning phase of a mobile experience, put yourself in your consumer’s shoes and act.  Where are you?  What are you doing? What situations are you in the middle of and what help do you need from a brand/utility or application?  When you begin to act like them (and I mean act, not just imagine…get up and get moving) you begin to really see things differently.  You begin to critically prioritize your offerings.  This then leads to streamlined interfaces, more focused interactivity and more time spent on creating killer apps rather than bells and whistles.

Thank you, and good night.