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12 Aug 2016

Memory design - the death of user experience design?

The feeling you have during an experience or the one you have after the event ... Which is more powerful and impactful? Which is more correct?!?

Reading time: 5 mins

Which is more powerful and impactful? Which is more correct?!? The feeling you have during an experience or the one you have after the event? In the superb article User Memory Design: How To Design For Experiences That Last,  Smashing Magazine reference a psychology test in which participants ended up feeling very differently about an experience after the event, compared to how they felt during it. It leads the writer to ask:

"If the memory of an experience can differ so much from the experience itself, and the remembering self is the ultimate decider, should we throw out the whole focus on user experience design? Should we be thinking of ourselves as user experience designers or should we be user memory designers?

My answer is yes. We should be both."

This is incredibly insightful and, as we aim in our processes to think about each step of the many diverse journeys users might take and, keeping in mind that "memorable moments carry emotional weight", it raises the question of which bits of those journeys do we have less (or no) control over. We strive to look at these 'small moments' whilst also always keeping our eye on the big picture, to ensure we "Don't screw up the Endings".

Many of our sites use 3rd party systems, and these allow for varying levels of integration - from Ticketing to eCommerce functionality.

These 3rd party systems often are large and cumbersome and maintain their overall offering within a legacy framework. Pain points can be visual:

  • Site opens in a new window
  • Different styling - either totally or an attempt at replicating the origin site's brand
  • Different chrome / links / layout / placement of navigation and so on
  • Different URL
  • No 'progress' indicator of where the user is on the pathway
  • Poor use of styling to help users - especially with clear Calls to Action on each step

They can also relate to actual functionality whilst going through the purchase pathway (eg Having to set up long-winded registration / losing basket content before being able to login, and so on)

When using tools such as experience mapping, or journey mapping, we find that it is frequently at the point at which the user moves from their journey and into the 3rd party system where they encounter issues. These may be as simple as visual discrepancies to downright frustrating functionality. The 'pain points', whilst out of our direct control, play a huge part in the user's experience and become a 'memorable moment' which can be negative and frustrating. In this context, even if we've done our processes as well as we can and provide a great site with good UX, the user can go away with a less than positive memory of the client site.

This then, is a request for those 3rd party providers to engage more with UX/CX and to put resources into their purchase pathways and payment gateways, to help users go away with great experiences of both their product and the site into which they're integrated.

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