It seems pretentious to proclaim something, “The Year of,” but sometimes, an insight of that magnitude is just too blatant to ignore. After five days at SXSW Interactive, I feel comfortable proclaiming that 2011 is the “Year of the User.” This is certainly not a new trend, as Fallon ideas are increasingly built for use (not simply viewership), but the sheer volume of UX conversation at this year’s conference could not be ignored.
A Shift in Thinking
I could go into a detailed list of citations from one of the many UX panels at the conference, but the concern for the experience of the user goes far deeper than what we traditionally think of as UX (wireframes and information architecture). Since the iBoom, advertisers have been trying to inject their brand messages into each new technology as soon as it hits the market. This basic mentality of “get the messages on the screens” helped grow a trend of creating content to fit the format, which worked . . .for a while. Then, users savvied up, and the sheer novelty of the space could no longer hold the fast-shifting attention of the mobile/social/always-connected consumer. To compensate, advertising has seen the rise of attention to UX and how our customers will take in our apps, websites and mobile experiences–literally, how users will experience our brand.
The popularity and breadth of this subject were reflected at SXSW, where sessions ranged from classic UX “nerd fests” (I say that lovingly) to more broad uses of the term.
The panels on social media were some of the more unexpected conversations to find the discussion of user experience, but still, many of them focused on how the user consumes our branded messages. Even something as seemingly small as a Facebook post has a level of user experience that should be taken into consideration. It’s no longer, “Let’s write for the brand, and if people don’t like us, they don’t “Like” us,” but more so, “How can our content fit the brand strategy and our consumer’s needs at the same time?”
UX and You
Even the sessions on “Nailing Pitches” and “Making Sales” (the actual titles were more verbose), made a point of discussing the user. This discussion was not limited to what you, yourself should do to be a successful idea salesperson, but included the experience of those you are presenting to. Guy Kawasaki spoke about his new book, Enchantment, which details how to conduct yourself to maximize your possibility of personal success. In short, his book and presentation are about the user experience of YOU. It is about how people will interact with you based on your actions and self-presentation, how people will feel in certain situations, and how you can be in control of how people experience interactions with you. You, as a person, have your own version of UX that you need to account for to succeed.
One of my biggest takeaways from SXSW 2011 is that everything has a user experience. From mobile, to online, to social, to entire brand experiences and even to you, as a person–we as advertisers need to take into consideration how our users consume our messages at every touchpoint.
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