JMCQUARRIE.co.uk

James McQuarrie is a London (UK) based User Experience Consultant who designs and helps build digital products & services that delight their users.

Designing and building User Experiences for web applications is very much like designing and building special effects for movies; in both cases you know you’ve been truly successful when no one notices what you did.

Let me explain.

If you were asked “what are the best special effects that you have ever seen in a movie?” You may choose something from an up to date film like Transformers. Or a scene from something a little more aged like Swordfish or the Matrix series. You may even pick something from a less obvious film like Pirates of the Caribbean, or even from something classic like Star Wars. Personally I’d pick the effects from Forest Gump.

For me the true measure of how well the special effects have been done is whether or not the audience noticed them. The less they notice, the more real the effects were and the better the SFX designers were at doing their jobs.

In Forrest Gump, there were moments that were obviously effects, like when Tom Hanks is superimposed into film with President John F. Kennedy. But this scene for me did not scream special effect. It looked like it was happening for real. It blended in with the story and helped deliver the message without getting in the way.

After watching Forrest Gump I heard no one in the cinema saying; “Wow, those special effects were amazing” while when leaving the cinema after watching Transformers almost everyone there was commenting on the “cool special effects”.

Now it may not be fair to compare the effects from a “real-world-based” movie like Forrest Gump to those of effects from the world of comics and aliens, but I hope it illustrates my point.

And my point is this; in the world of web applications the User Interface should be just like the special effects in Forrest Gump; it should help the users understand the application and achieve their goals while using it, without getting in the way or overpowering the message. If the UX designer has done their job well no one will notice. People will log in, do what they need to do, and logout without ever thinking, “Wow the interface of this application was amazing.” or conversely; “Wow the interface of this application is rubbish and just gets in my way.”

If no one notices either way, I consider it a job well done.