Winnie the Pooh and Piglet walking and holding hands
Winnie the Pooh and Piglet walking and holding hands

Since the early days of computing, people have tried to teach computers to think like humans. Success in this task has been limited for the first few decades, but not until recently when the real successes were achieved as we entered the era of AI with exponentially growing access to data and processing resources.

How do you teach a machine to think? How would you know that you’ve succeeded? And how is it related to Winnie the Pooh?

Teaching computers how to think

When it comes to teaching a machine how to think, the traditional approach has been to feed the computer a series of…

3 men with pistols in the old west
3 men with pistols in the old west

Let’s say you are a UX designer on the Gmail team.

You are tasked to address a repeated user request: users want to add labels to messages they send.

Since you are a trained designer, you ask more questions: Who is going to use this? why? when? and where?

You discover a common request — as users compose a message and just before they hit ‘Send’, they’d like to add labels to the message, rather than just the default ‘Sent’ folder.

If you are a Bad Designer

You probably already have some ideas (although some may be quite obvious).

You choose to add a button that…

Imagine a future where users don’t choose your software for its fantastic capabilities or the state-of-the-art underlying technology that you invested so much in or not even because your support channel are so awesome.

Imagine a future where users choose your software merely because of its design.

Well, this future is already here or at least is if your product is a car.

A brief history of Automobile industry

For the most part, cars did not change much in the past 30 years. …

Since the late 1990s when Online Focus Groups first burst onto the scene, they haven’t evolved much. In many ways, they are still in their premature and somewhat even naive incarnation. Very much like when the first electric kettles were introduced. Manufacturers understood that this had to be the next step in the water heating evolution but didn’t quite get the extent of it.

Let's examine the early electric kettles as a metaphor for today’s Online Focus Groups.

First electric kettles

Swan electric kettle, Museum of Liverpool

The Swan electric kettle is the first electric kettle with a built-in heating element. It was first introduced in England at the…

Cutlery and bowls with food
Cutlery and bowls with food

Has your mother-in-law/mother/friend ever come to your house and graciously decided to help you out by arranging your kitchen? Remember the frustration when you were looking for your favorite coffee mug? Or the sugar?

Well if it’s any consolation, you were not the only one.

So what is it with kitchens that no one other than us is allowed to arrange them?

Conceptual model

First, we need to understand what a conceptual model is.

A conceptual model is the way we as humans explain to ourselves how something works (usually highly simplified).

Let’s look at an example.

You want to cook dinner…

Orange button with Click here label
Orange button with Click here label

When it comes to praising a good user experience, ‘intuitive’ seems to be the highest reward available. ‘Intuitive’ as a value-add to your application is easy to explain, easy to lobby for by stakeholders, and very easy to measure. Ask five inexperienced users to perform a task and if they are successful, you’ve just validated that your application is ‘Intuitive’.

But what if your application needs to support dozens of other tasks and many more variants of tasks? How would you now measure the cumulative user experience?

When it comes to complex applications, especially ones that are repeatedly used, “Intuitive”…

Amos Wagon

UX Director at Pegasystems. Humanizing enterprise applications.

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