From Wikipedia Flow (psychology):
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
A flow state can be entered while performing any activity, although it is most likely to occur when one is wholeheartedly performing a task or activity for intrinsic purposes. Passive activities like taking a bath or even watching TV usually don’t elicit flow experiences as individuals have to actively do something to enter a flow state.
It also talks about the conditions required to achieve the flow state:
- One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
- The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
- One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one's ability to complete the task at hand.
These all sound like good UX design principles to me, and the FCQ (Flow Condition Questionnaire) seems to be an equivalent or parallel measure of usability because it looks at the characteristics of user behaviour/perception that relate to an engaged user (maybe except for High perceived challenges and skills):
- Knowing what to do
- Knowing how to do it
- Knowing how well you are doing
- Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
- High perceived challenges
- High perceived skills
- Freedom from distractions
I would be interested to know whether anyone has used a general usability questionnaire and compared it side-by-side with the results of the flow state analysis.