Dec 6, 2020

Get No (perceptions of user experience)

I attended a "progressive" (read: hippie) school on the Upper West Side called Walden. In 2nd or 3rd grade, our teacher Gloria pulled out a record player every morning and let us dance around, I'm sure as a way to help burn off the energy of a large group of seven-year-olds. 

She played the same song for us, every day, at the same time. The song's chorus was "Get No" and we would shout and dance around, screaming "Get No!" I remember the dance, the singing, the names of the kids, and the way it set up the rest of the day. 

This class picture might have been from that year:

When Google launched, I noticed two things. One was that PageRank (the algorithm used to rank web pages in search results) seemed to work *really* well. The other, more vivid, was the interface:
The simplicity of this for sure, but something maybe more profound. The way this interface was neither a directory (like Yahoo! at the time) nor channels (like AOL) - it was just free form search. Pure search. Insert whatever words you like, we'll help you find it. The idea seemed to be that control would come totally from the user. 

The implicit suggestion was: "You don't need to remember where something is, you only need to know how to find it."

The technology mattered here; yet, the interface shift may have been what changed behavior forever.

This reminded me of a meeting I had last year with someone who was interviewing for a product role at The New York Times. His recommendation for the Times was to mimic The Daily (the podcast with episodes based on the reporting of that day) and turn the whole "paper" into audio products. This got me thinking about the interface, or user experience, of The Daily: consistent length, format, and host. From the Times itself:

"Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism"

Prior to The Daily, news podcasts existed. Yet, The Daily has consistently been one of the most listened to podcasts, maybe one of the most listened to of all time. Here's a chart of the New York Time stock price from January 2017 (when The Daily launched) to the present:

Again, the content in The Daily matters (of course); perhaps though the results from the interface shift are more profound.

A related topic is email newsletters. Regular information sharing via email is not new. What is happening now that is driving more attention and usage? A shift relating to user experience. Looking at Substack, here are three inbox examples from this morning:

Notice the consistency among font, spacing, layout, heading. This consistency appears new applied to the existing medium (email). Moreso, perhaps the user experience from Substack  - the common look and feel - results in implicit cognition among users, something akin to "this is information that will help you learn something new." The innovation then, if you will, comes from the altered user experience. 

All this is to suggest only one thing: that new ways to experience something, especially something that already exists, can be the most transformational. The interface can be the message when something old is presented in a new way.

It took me a few years to realize there was no song called "Get No" we were dancing to in Gloria's classroom. Instead, it was a song about angst and shallow obsession with consumerism repurposed for seven-year-olds' movement play. 

It was (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction:

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