Making Experiences Magic


Every week upon leaving the leisure centre after my daughter’s swimming lesson, we are required to stop by the vending machine for a post-swim snack. Despite my continued protests that we could buy the exact same chocolate bar at a considerably lower price from the shop on the way home, my daughter insists that we use the machine.

What always fascinates me about this little ritual is how much my daughter enjoys the process of using the machine. In fact, I’m convinced her motivation for wanting a snack is as much an excuse to use the machine as it is to have the treat itself. She enjoys the whole experience of choosing what she wants, entering the product number into the keypad, seeing the rotating helix mechanism push the product over the edge so it falls to the bottom and then reaching into the machine to retrieve her selection. For those few moments, it is like she has her own giant robot that she can command to give her chocolate.

This illustrates how influential technology experiences can be in our behaviour and in the products and services we choose to use. The knowledge that the machine responds according my daughter’s instruction makes the experience very empowering and satisfying for her. The fact that she can operate this large vending machine independently gives her great confidence in using technology.

Clearly the novelty felt by a child beginning to understand the technology around them does not usually last into adulthood, however our relationship with, and expectations of, technology are continually evolving. Children engage with technology as a form of learning and understanding the world, but they often take the underlying technology for granted as they have far fewer preconceptions about what is and isn’t possible.

Adults however, can often be far more amazed by technology experiences that break their preconceptions. Many adults of a certain age will remember the first time they used satnav and how that technology completely redefined the experience of driving somewhere unfamiliar. That first satnav experience for me almost felt like magic, not just because of the technical capability of the device but because that technology was realised in such a way that it just worked totally intuitively and did exactly what I needed it to do. I did not have to read a manual and I managed to complete my journey more efficiently and with complete confidence. That piece of technology suddenly became indispensable because it was designed to work for people in a totally seamless way. The technology disappears and all that is left is a great experience.

We should never underestimate the value that can be realised through the application of Experience Design. By applying structured design thinking to the experiences we create, we can ensure that we make even the most mundane transaction or task a positive experience. With the objective of creating products and services that do what people want and work how people think, we can create those ‘Wow!’ moments where a product or service just surpasses all expectations.

Applied experience design can provide an array of benefits to the end user including clearer interaction, improved accessibility, personalised services, new capabilities, increases in speed and efficiency, reduction of errors, increased safety… the list goes on. The holistic consideration that a good experience design process provides will ensure that user value is maximised in any product or service.

Of course, the benefits are not just limited to the user. Carefully designing, testing and improving experiences yields significant business value in terms of increased brand engagement, value added services, upselling opportunities, increased consumer trust and loyalty. To achieve maximum value, experience design needs to be a fundamental part of the product development process with UX specialists engaged from the very beginning.

When technology just works perfectly in the way you expect it to and a seemingly complex task becomes incredibly simple and engaging, it can often feel like someone has waved a magic wand. I believe the magic behind it all is great UX design and my goal is to design every interaction with technology to feel just as magical as my daughter’s experiences with the swimming pool vending machine. 

Phil Jenkins, Head of UX