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One cat, two mosquitoes, three jackals & The Vitruvian Woman, a lesson in UX.

For those unaware, The Vitruvian Man is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci depicting “The Proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius” (a famous Roman architect from the 1st century BC).

Say our friends at Wikipedia; “The drawing, which is in ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square.”

Why this is important is that the double superimposed image of man indicates a wide-ranging wingspan that can easily dominate a square space . . . like a bed, for example.

About last night.

As any person living in Johannesburg (near any body of water) will tell you, summer on the highveld brings with it many delights.

Warm evenings around a braai fire, a little bit of lightning, a little bit of thunder . . . the inexplicable yet habitual fixing of the same potholes and, of course, an endless, relentless, wholly-determined armada of mosquitoes hell-bent on significantly reducing the pints of blood in our veins.

Usually I ward off this invader force by having a large metal fan ruin their intended path of descent with an air current strong enough to peel skin from a body.

The problem is all that airflow also negatively impacts my wife’s respiratory system, giving her all kinds of sniffles and coughs – sometimes requiring either a healthy reduction in airflow or none at all . . . which is what happened last night and how I came to realise the many factors that create a disconnect between concept / intended purpose and the ultimate User Experience (UX).

One cat, two mosquitoes, three jackals . . .

I tried my best to fall asleep, lying there in the windless realm of our bedroom and was just approaching some level of “shuteye” when, from a North-Easterly direction I picked up the tell-tale sounds of an impending raid.

With eyes-wide-shut I naively waved my arms about in the air – imagining that in some Karate-Kid moment of brilliance my grasping (at thin air) hands will connect with the offending squadron and squash their intentions on the spot.

That did not happen.

Time and again they swooped and, time and again, a hopeful arm shot skyward without reward. If you looked at this “play” from a distance you’d consider the main protagonist slightly odd or plenty mad – either way, from an outsiders’ point of view all this probably looked void of sanity.

Now throw in a cat (Max) who refuses to find anywhere else to sleep but on my head, or between my legs, the incessant howl of a pack of Jackals (they share the estate with us humans) and the wild panic of birds being hunted down in the dead of night and you have a crescendo of chaos in which no person can really sleep.

Except for my wife.

. . .  The Vitruvian Woman

Much like Leonardo’s famous double superimposed image of man, my wife does not like restriction or “sides of beds”.

Not every night, of course, but many a night the square space of whatever brand we have is merely a suggestion and will she find all manner of weird and wonderful angles that require other bedfellows to jump for their lives (Max the cat) or find a slither of structure to balance his 120kg of male form on (me).

Lying there, precariously balanced on the edge of oblivion, ducking from “The Blitz” while accommodating an irate male cat with sharp claws and a determined glare I half imagined the outstretched arm of Sylvester Stallone reaching down to offer welcome salvation aboard his Bell UH-1 helicopter.

Alas, the burst of Jackal howls pulled me back to reality and, reluctantly, up from the ledge.

I stumbled over the fan, doing my best to not make a sound while plugging it in.

I failed.

A lesson in UX

There are many definitions for a pleasant user experience but, really, it boils down to the perfect harmony between product and environment. When everything is in-synch you have the perfect user experience. . . and, while you may say that my (very true) story is a stretch at best the principles are the same.

The perfect user experience in my case would have been if my bed-brand (promising an amazingly peaceful rest) was supported by an environment that delivered exactly that.

In our advertising/marketing/design world we often concentrate on the core product with little consideration for the rest of the environment . . . the “what happens next” or the “how is it supported” that will close the loop on a campaign or project and deliver that near perfect experience for clients – and their customers.

The trick is to identify the variables in the matrix and then find a way to deal with their impact as best as we can.

We won’t always succeed but should always try.

Best of luck to us all.