Design is how users feel when experiencing products

The O’Reilly Design Podcast: Cindy Alvarez on emotion, user research, and why Craigslist is great design.

By Mary Treseler
August 19, 2015
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. From William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. From William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Design Podcast, our podcast exploring how experience design—and experience designers—are shaping business, the Internet of Things, and other domains.

In this week’s Design Podcast episode, I sit down with Cindy Alvarez, a designer at Microsoft, author of Lean Customer Development, and member of our program committee for O’Reilly’s first design conference.

Learn faster. Dig deeper. See farther.

Join the O'Reilly online learning platform. Get a free trial today and find answers on the fly, or master something new and useful.

Learn more

Alvarez talks about how design is changing, how the approach to design at Microsoft is changing, and user research misperceptions and challenges. She also offers advice to those who are insisting all designers should code.

Here are a few highlights from our chat:

Steve Jobs has said that, “Design is not how it looks, it’s how it works.” I would go one step further and say, “Design is how you work.” When you’re using something, how do you feel … How are you feeling more capable — do you feel smarter? Do you feel stronger? Do you feel stupider? Design is how you feel when you are using things or having experiences.

The ‘butt-brush’ effect comes from the wonderful Paco Underhill book Why We Buy. … Specifically, the butt-brush phenomenon is people looking at products that they really wanted to buy, but the store layout made it so people were bumping into them. That was such a strong push to get them to abandon what they were doing … that they’d just get up and walk away. He theorized about people feeling vulnerable, and undoubtedly there’s some sort of evolutionary thing about woolly mammoths sneaking up on us or something. I think it’s just, on a more base level, people feel clumsy. They feel fat, they feel clumsy and awkward, and we don’t like that at all.

Every designer out there thinks Craigslist is horrible and ugly. It is horribly ugly. [But] if you get on Craigslist and you find an apartment in your new city, you just felt smart. You just felt awesome. That is great design.

Everyone should be a designer and everyone should write code: both of those are wrong in my opinion.

You can listen to the podcast in the player above or subscribe on Stitcher, TuneIn, iTunes, or SoundCloud.

Post topics: O'Reilly Design Podcast