In our attempt to create amazing user experiences, we often want to push the envelope, to create something new, to show people a bright new future. But too often we fall into the novelty trap. The novelty trap is when, in an attempt to dazzle our clients and our users, we focus too much on the new and not enough on the now.
To create great user experiences we need to focus on the now. In reality the problems of our users are painfully mundane and often obvious. It is our task to ease this pain, and in doing so we might not invent some amazing new thing, but that’s OK. Success is incremental.
Consider the following companies, widely regarded as purveyors of great user experiences:
Netflix lets you rent the exact same movies as every other rental service, but they make it easy to do right from your home and they work hard to give you solid movie recommendations. They succeeded by removing the painful problem imposed by nearly all rental companies, the dreaded late fee. Sometimes a good experience results not from addition, but from removal! Netflix did not solve a new problem, they solved an old one.
Zappos sells one of the most mundane products imaginable: shoes. But by solving a widespread problem with faceless web-based companies (bad service), they stand out and shine. Service is one of the oldest problems known to business…in any age or time providing great service results in a great user experience.
Jetblue did something simple: they added personal viewing screens to the seat-backs in their airplanes. None of the technology was new, but the experience of being in control of your in-flight entertainment was. Couple that with food that isn’t horrible, and they quickly improved on the user experience of flight.
These companies did not solve future problems, they solved well-known, existing ones. That’s how you provide great user experiences, by alleviating the well-known pain points that already exist in the world.
So, when trying to articulate the problem to be solved, focus on the now, not the new.