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Is it possible to use UX principles and methods that we use when creating human-computer interfaces when we design other (not related with IT) products or services? Can we improve the interface of a bank or an insurance company? Can we measure the usability of a restaurant or, say, an airport? Is there anything common between 'customer experience' and 'user experience'?

If you know any interesting resources or useful books on the subject, could you please give a link?

If you know any bright examples, impressive case studies or amazing success stories, please give a link too.

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Of course. Every interaction that involves enabling or assisting another can benefit from application of UX principles. Or it might be more accurate to say that there is nothing new in UX that hasn't already been done for ages in customer service, human factors engineering, technical communication, teaching, architecture, urban/parks planning, etc.

I'm forever reminding clients and readers that "Good usability is good customer service." We should not tolerate rude or unhelpful behavior from interfaces any more than we would from customer service staff. The analogies make great UX illustrations. For instance, if a customer were to fill out a form and miss one of the fields, and the clerk helping them tore the form up and handed them a new one, how long would that clerk last in your business? You'd either train them right quick, or fire them. But that kind of horrible customer service is still seen in some computer UIs (less so as time goes on, thankfully).

Here's a short blog post I wrote back in May, about an online shopping experience I had involving poor customer service.

There's another area, further afield, where I'm forever noticing the application of the same principles is in horse training. I'll not bore you with the details, but the idea is the same - that we are trying to guide another into a desired behavior. Suffice it to say, the idea "Make the right thing easy, and the wrong thing hard" has been around in horsemanship for longer than computers have been with us.

Great question, and one of my favorite subjects!

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Linda, thank you very much for your answer. Your blog post is also interesting, thanks! – Kostya Oct 19 '09 at 5:03
"if a customer were to fill out a form and miss one of the fields, and the clerk helping them tore the form up and handed them a new one..." I think this actually does happen to foreigners entering the US. If you make any mistakes on your immigration form you have to start over with a new form - no corrections allowed. The immigration authorities can get away with this because they have a monopoly. (Though I suppose you could simply choose to visit a different country instead!) – Bennett McElwee Nov 13 '09 at 10:17

The answer is clearly "Yes," in my mind. For example, HFI has a web cast in which they apply what they call P.E.T. (persuasion, emotion, trust) design to things like wine on restaurant menus.

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Totally agree, the industry didn't start with computers, it simply branched out. – Kieron Oct 16 '09 at 14:54
Thanks, a web cast was interesting! – Kostya Oct 19 '09 at 5:21

A quick answer and run.

The two are very closely linked, especially in the service sector. One link which is quite good is Experience Matters, which highlights lots of good, bad, and ugly user...sorry, customer experiences.

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Thank you for the nice link! – Kostya Oct 19 '09 at 5:03

The answer is an overwhelming yes. User Experience online and in the real world are closely related. Understanding one actually helps understand the other. I am new to the world of web usability but have been consistently frustrated when things don't seem consistent in the real world. I never really understood the problems till i started working on a website usability project.

Now, solving real world issues and web design issues has become increasingly similar. For example, before i started writing any usability related posts, i analyzed the New York city subway system for usability issues. Going through their history of maps, stations, fonts, etc helped me a great deal while designing web apps. Other examples where i've encountered real world usability issues are: direction a door opens, plastic casings for electronics, remote controls, lines at embassies, etc.

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Your example with the direction a door opens remembered me Don Norman's book ) – Kostya Oct 23 '09 at 17:02
which book is that? – Sushant Anand Oct 26 '09 at 18:06
The Design of Everyday Things – Kostya Nov 11 '09 at 21:32

Definitely yes! There are quite a few manufacturers in Germany which have dedicated departments which apply UX Design on their product designs:

  • Heidelberger Druckmaschinen (Printing equipment)
  • Trumpf Werkzeugmaschinen (Machinery)
  • Krones AG (Machinery)
  • Harman Kardon (Car radios and hifi equipment)

and more.

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If you've not come across the term already you might want to take a look at around the topic of Service Design - which sounds exactly like the sort of thing you're interested in.

The wikipedia page for service design and the designforservice blog may provide some initial pointers.

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Thanks, adrianh! Yes, I've found such term and some information (for example the community But finding any books on the subject happens to be rather difficult. It looks like either the industry is very young or there is no serious industry at all. – Kostya Oct 19 '09 at 5:11

Is it possible to use UX principles and methods that we use when creating human-computer interfaces when we design other (not related with IT) products or services?


It's the same old human brain trying to make sense of things whether its a PC screen; a telephone or a teacup.

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