Chapter 9. Modeling Modalities and Mapping User Experiences

“Don’t design things. Design behaviors.”


HOW IS IT THAT one person may thrive by doing several things simultaneously and then barely stay awake doing only one? How can people struggle to stay in their seat during a meeting, but be glued to their sofa during a Netflix binge? Paying attention can be effortless or exhausting. Some activities require deep focus on one thing, while some require distributing attention across a few. Some activities heighten the senses, while some dull or confuse them. Focus is critical to difficult activities like brain surgery, rocket science, or driving with kids and dogs in the backseat. Distraction can be dangerous, and interruption is becoming a growing issue with the quality of experiences and life in general.

Multimodal product design emphasizes focus, behavior, and context to enable users to accomplish their goals. Product experiences should enable the right level of focus, provide the right functionality or information to support user activity, or simply get out of the way, depending on the situation. Understanding how perception and cognition contribute to those experiences is an important step in the process.

Multimodal experiences have many intangible layers, like user behaviors, contextual factors, and cross-modal transitions. These aspects of product design are perhaps not as concrete or as easily valued as that slick new locking hinge mechanism that uses supermagnets. ...

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