The Missing Part - Emotional & Humanistic Touch in IT Products

First of all, I should make it clear that I do not do programming. So what am I doing? I study psychology and education, two of the most fundamental subjects that are related to human being. 

But I do have many expert friends who are doing programming, including my boyfriend. I hang out with them and interact with them. Because of that, I start paying attention to all those web products, mobile Apps, and all those "star products" born in Silicon Valley. Whenever my friends introduce me the latest product, I am like, so impressed and fascinated by it. Say, some Apps can help you change the screen color based on the time at your local area; some Apps can help you control videos by using hand gestures instead of touchpad; some Apps can help your kids develop cognitive competency…There are tons of them. I used to feel a little bit proud of myself because I know lots of Apps than my non-tech friends do. 

I have seen many (of course not as many as CS people do) web and iOS Apps for all kinds of purpose, like social and entertainment. Here in Stanford, I have been seeing so many people rushing into this platform and trying to achieve something in this huge trend of technology mania; I have seen how enthusiastic CS people are when talking about their products and how they will solve a problem; I have seen my non-tech friends playing with some apps and laughing at a picture of me with a fat head…My general user experience of IT products is gradually becoming complicated along with my studies at the Graduate School of Education. 

I start doing some reflections. The reason people using technology is complex and I will never have a chance to figure it out. For example, online learning platform is a hot topic in my school. Researchers are discussing about MOOCs and only a few researches are done to demonstrate that appropriately using technology in education will benefit early education; investors are focusing on online learning and it seems like their actions are suggesting our next giants on Forbes; some schools start utilizing IT products to help students get prepared for their future life and many parents/educators do not even know the potential consequences of using technology.

Is it good? Is it bad? It's hard to tell based on the information we have now. The only thing I am pretty sure is that the development of information technology will continue, with a even faster growth rate. No blame. Here is Silicon Valley, where is the paradise for information technology and entrepreneurship. If people in Silicon Valley is not crazy about IT, who else should be? 

All those thoughts come together making my user experience with technology bittersweet. Today, I talked to my advisor and we all thought that human relationship has been changed a lot because of the development of technology, especially the intimacy part. Indeed, technology makes communication extremely easy to happen, but all you can see is friends are checking their phone when waiting for food. Our life is shifting to a virtual world, which brings me a huge question mark: what are people's behaviors and psychological state when they are interacting virtually online? Before answer the question, I always try to make sense of the reason I asked about it. I think the IT trend is inevitable within next 10 years, so I hope people/developers can truly understand the fundamental reason why we are using IT products. 

Last quarter, I attended a talk at IDEO, San Francisco. The topic was how to design a good product. The best examples demonstrated there were Instagram and Flipboard. The conclusion was that: UI design should follow people's existing behaviors, like flipping pages; for Instagram,  the person said, "You think people use Instagram is because of its filters? Think about the instant camera, you take a photo and then it's printed out. Next, you give the picture to your friends -- you see the social behavior that is more powerful than a single of photo there?" Yesterday, ironically, a friend of mine told me that she stopped using Instagram because she was too lazy to input her password after the App updated. Meanwhile, I was complaining about the ugliness of the new User Interface. However, I do not stop using it, and my only reason is that my boyfriend is using it. I use Line because we are using it. I use Wechat because my friends are using it. Otherwise I could have deleted them all! I am easy to get bored, and if I cannot see the point of using it, I will dump it no matter how beautiful the UI is and how "wonderful" the UX is. 

User experience design, how ironical it can be for me, as a UX designer/researcher. Just 1 hour ago, I was listening about a person talking about user experience design in 3D environment, like how to design hand-guesture-control user experience. The product design classes that I have taken highlights on human-centered design principle. USER IS EVERYTHING. If we consider from that perspective, maybe we should know more about human? we should know more about how they think, feel, talk, and act? Do human have emotions? I think every designer will say, oh yes, definitely. However, if you see all those products there in the market, what's the thing that is missing?  

It's the emotional attachment. Technology makes our lives easy. But, when everything becomes extremely easy without taking any effort, the value of it will drop down to the ground. When birthday greetings become automatic that are sent out by the system, will you still value them? I still remember how happy I am when I receive real letters from my friends, because it's rare, and because I know that my friends spend time on it. Everything can be a routine when it becomes extremely easy to do. Routine is hard to generate happiness. Therefore, it's a trade off between productivity and happiness. Emotional attachment is hard to gain if there is no bond among your users. One of my friends talked about her use of IFTTT to inform her mother that she is safe by sending out a message. In this way, IFTTT becomes a signal for her mom that her daughter is safe. Here comes the emotional attachment. I know this can be more on a marketing side, but I strongly think that designers should see the big picture and value the emotion elements in their products - make the IT product more human like. I believe that if more IT products are involved with emotional and humanistic touch, the revolution of Informative Technology will become more acceptable and friendly. 

At least, I will sincerely appreciate the beauty of information technology.