Learning Curves and Time-Series User Experience

There is an interesting post titled “How the SUV User Experience Trashed Detroit” that talks about our friends in Detroit some. What I find interesting is not so much its attack on SUVs, as its division of “User Experience” into First-, Early-, and Deep user experience.

How the SUV User Experience Trashed Detroit
When we speak of the “user experience” and how it impacts purchase and adoption of products and services we divide the framework into three basic pieces: 1) the FUE or the first user experience, 2) the EUE early user experience and 3) the DUE the deep user experience. We know from extensive research for leading high technology and media companies that there is no EUE or DUE without a very compelling FUE…in other words, what the customer first experiences is all important and in fact my be uniquely critical to the success of products which in the end, like the SUV, are of marginal or even negative relative value in the larger context. If you get the FUE right you can sell almost anything and customers will thank you for it. When we employ more advanced psychometric testing methods to user experience design research problems this effect surfaces in web sites, cell phones, video games, automobiles and a wide range of other high tech products and services.

It appears that the First/Early/Deep division of user experience is a way of describing the learning curve (becoming more proficient with the tool over time) and the affective curve (becoming less “wowed” and more comforted with the tool over time). I don’t know if we need to split user experience into three separate sections, except for ease of memory (think back to when some folks took the idea of 4GW as a dialectically distinct gradient of war, for instance), but the idea of user experience naturally changing over time is an important one.

Tools that market themselves should have both a steep learning curve and an affective hook that gives people patience to learn how to use them.

5 thoughts on “Learning Curves and Time-Series User Experience”

  1. Not directly, but a user experience researcher should be able to use a form of profile analysis to forcast the user experience curve… to predict how the learning and affective curves will be for different sorts of users.

  2. The idea of “Deep” Experience reminds me of the long list of people who are constantly accused of “not getting it” where “it” is always some conveniently vague and nebulous something only accessible by a self-selected, self-appointed elite. Common example: “Republican has caused by the spirit of (malignancy/materialism/meaness/greediness/pure evil/intolerance) they have created in this country”. There is no cause and effect, only an assertion that the ineffable other, accessible only to those with a deepness of soul and a broadness of vision, has been fundamentally violated. (Now I sound like a quant).

  3. I authored the piece on the SUV user experience and find your comments interesting. Here is a slightly deeper explanation of my POV. It turns out that the levels of user experience mentioned in my original post are mapped to underlying skill acquisition theory. Over the past 10 years much of that theory has been used to develop an understanding of how we acquire the necessary skills, rules and knowledge required to make sense of the new technology around us. In a more commercial sense the term widely used in user experience research today is “Engagement”, which implies a kind of binding or choreography between technology and the user/customer. The whole idea of engagement has recently become a major focus on Madison Avenue as the Ad folks attempt to put a new model together that resolves the pressing problem of loss of ad revenues based on the number of ads delivered (CPM metric). This conventional advertising model is undergoing a rapid and painful death.

    The new ad model is based on measuring levels of engagement by customers with brands, products and services. It turns out that various levels of engagement have much different value to the advertiser…the deeper the users engagement the higher the relative value and the more a given interaction is worth (in real dollar terms). Putting aside the problem of measuring engagement, it is almost certain that this will be the next phase of advertising.

    So to summarize…for a given level of engagement there is a corresponding value (in actual ad revenue terms) to the advertiser based on reaching those customers who objectively reach deep levels of engagement with product or brand. All of this is a way of saying that the user-experience levels of engagement discussed in my post about the SUV (and the iPhone) is rapidly becoming a major conceptual framework for valuing customers interaction with not only technology but advertising and other social media.

    Charles Mauro
    President CEO

  4. Brendan over at I Hate Linux has a good post about data and user-experience research [1], which dovetails with some official information that has come out of Microsoft [2].


    Good warnings. Backing claims like deep/shallow/etc up with hard definitions (called operationalization) hopefully lets us detect when people make claims that rely on themselves as assumptions.

    Charles Mauro,

    Thanks for contributing to the tdaxp community!

    I’m a doctoral student in educational psychology, so I have worked with ACT-R (the theory on which SAT is based) [3]. I am very glad to see that user-experience researchers are using the findings and methods of psychology: I think it will make the results more reliable and valid!

    [1] http://ihatelinux.blogspot.com/2008/12/what-wrong-with-calling-home.html
    [2] http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2005/10/31/487247.aspx
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/01/23/working-memory-and-orientation.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *