My UX Passion in One Word: The “Intimiste” User Experience

John Holt

By John Holt

My goal as UX designer is to reduce the growing pains of having to quickly navigate new experiences that will ultimately propel better conversion rates and increase ROI (return on investment).

Essentially, businesses are realizing that a great digital product alone is not enough if people cannot quickly access its value and experience its contributions. I make the process work and feel intuitive, using a holistic UX design approach (or user-centric) that incorporates visuals, psychology and biology. 

About “Intimiste”

The word “intimiste”, from French origins, deals largely with the intimate personal thoughts and feelings behind motivation – often expressed in literature and art.  I have taken the concept of “intimiste” and applied it to the UX/UI process.  The intimiste of design crosses many disciplines. Whether obscure, abstract or literal, like fine art, graphic design (UI) and UX  seeks to inspire our experience with visuals that relate directly to nuanced emotional experiences that transcend language or processes. I find it difficult to separate UX from UI since one informs the other.

Qualitative Research: Why does perception influence motivation?

The intimiste seeks to understand and communicate the mysterious inner-workings of the human mind. Consequently, it also seeks to answer the evolving UX question: how does perception influence motivation? New technologies present a learning curve that can be discouraging and foreign to the human mind, which leads to abandoned customer journeys. We designers must go deeper, below the surface to excavate the “real” experience – what’s happening at the most intimate levels of human consciousness.

Thought, Emotion and Human Factors: A holistic approach to UX

The elements of successful design (emotion) and user experience (thought) are not new concepts. Artists and creators have sought to understand them for millennia. Our experience begins in the mind where perceptions are interpreted with thought (UX) but then they are felt quickly with emotion (UI).  A holistic approach to UX design tests, evaluates and interprets the impact of both. Human factors studies how we communicate and why (motivation). Instead of forcing or expecting people to adapt to complex new environments online, holistic UX designers start with the human’s natural state of being – the psychology of desire and what makes us feel good and let’s that inform the process.  Successful digital products must fit established ways of seeing and interacting with the world based on psychology, biology and visuals.

The Visuals: UX designer as a modified, bonafide graphic designer

UX alone will tell you what works and what does not, but it does not answer the question, “what works best.” I can answer that question, but not without the inspired help of graphic designers. I need real UI designers, and talented designers are preferred – designers with points of view and opinions about why their designs work. They are and always will be the “the secret in the sauce”. A study was conducted on a website with the exact same functionality. One was attractive and one was mediocre at best. The user was asked which one was more trustworthy, the good design scored best. So even if your usability testing indicates the functional best, design seals the deal.

A well-known company recently told me, “We are not looking for a UX/UI designer, just UX.” Well thanks, but if a company cannot understand that these two disciplines are not separate; that they are conjoined twins at best, then it indicates a serious flaw. Why the staunch separation of the two? Are they missing something fundamental?  At my heart I am an artist and graphic designer. I admit it. As a UX designer now, for over six years, I know for sure that one cannot be successful without the other. If a UX designer lacks graphic design skills, then the UI team must be his/her right hand. Analytics without the visuals is not accurate. Prototypes only tell half the story. The real experience must come after the UI artists have added the final flavor to the mix. Because their treatments can change a simple UX usability test from fail to success in surprising ways.

The art of simple charm, without apparent primers.

I recently heard a professional explain user interface design (UI) as being like an artist throwing paint at canvas. What? This must be the most insulting thing one can say to a UI designer. For years, since the internet began, UI designers have been responsible for everything we might call UX design today. Many of the  graphic designers I have worked with were familiar with UX.

The UI designer is the only UX person many big and small companies have. Graphic designers or GUI designers were once responsible for the entire process and to short change them as mere decorators of UX is just wrong.  Certainly, UX experts would be short changed not to recognize the value of graphic designers input during the process. If you can find a UX designer who is essentially a UI designer you have found a rare beast. I think all UI designers should naturally progress to UX or at least understand the process. I think it is something they have always instinctually understood, desired and applied to their art. Therein lies the magic sauce of UX design. Charm has as much value as process – and good graphic designers, from the beginning of advertising, seek to charm customers.

The Power of Design in UX

As UX designers we must reach the depths of human experience to have any real impact. Apple suddenly made computers look cool and appealed to the human soul through design. Even the famous Macintosh commercial was not about function and processes, it was about feelings. Therein lies the truth, the real power of UX, and only a well-executed graphic design can convey the art in a process. I can review user tests and conduct studies but design changes the equation. Ultimately, holding multiple abstract concepts and disciplines at the same time is an important UX designer’s talent. I tout the power of UI design only because I cannot work in a vacuum and can’t live without an understanding of both UX and UI – nor can your business.

The intimiste seeks the subtle shades of meaning underlying the internal thoughts and feelings of universal human experience. Weather it is an engaging interface for a computer or tool, or an ordinary process related to everyday living or just an app that makes life better, UX designers must seeks to understand the human experience in all its nuances – then harness it’s motivation and translate that into a manufactured experience. The more effortless and unobtrusive the experience, the more it must fundamentally relate to human beings  natural state of being and way of interacting with the world around them. This encompasses thought (psychology), neurosciences (reward hormones like dopamine)  and design (visual interaction with the world). As a UX designer I’m not trying to see if your “process” works or not, I’m creating an artful experience that works for people in a way that feels natural. At the end of that experience trust has been established and they purchase your product because a basic human contract has been fulfilled “bonding”. They have bonded with your product because you communicated with their true self, the human factor. None of this can be achieved without the magic of UI. Art is magic. It may sound trite to say that but simple observations about “us” indicate that trust sells. Trust is built with design, not ease of use alone. However, let’s do both. Let’s give them experience and trust. Only design can do that, ask Apple. Great computers, but without the design shift they would have fallen victim to their own development prowess. At some point warm fuzzies, as trite as it may seem, made the difference. The same is true for your product.