In the last month, I've spent time learning how to ask questions. I make mistakes, and I get told so. At times I am made to feel dense. Yet I persevere because I see that there is substantial reward beyond the hump of this learning curve. Knowledge is now accessible at my beckon call rather than at the tap of my fingers. I am talking to Siri, and it is an entirely new experience for me.
User-centric design requires that we, the creatives, make design decisions which solve challenges from the user's perspective. We must ask ourselves when, where, and why we should have the gumption to demand that our users learn something new. Siri represents a hefty demand. At times, I think I'm asking nicely and she volleys back with curt denials. At times, trying to figure out how she wants me to speak to her has been a frustrating challenge. We could never design such an experience in the context of a typical online brand campaign or e-commerce experience. No one would bother to work through it. It is Siri's presence in a product that allows her to push the boundaries.
Product design, whether physical or software, has a longevity that provides greater opportunity for evolving experiences. Through five revisions of iOS, users of the iPhone have been tasked with learning many new interactions. Yet each step in understanding built upon the previous step rather than replacing it. Observe the evolution of iOS from a distance, and you'll see a consistent approach:
- Define tangible values for learning new interactions
- Make new experiences optional
- Make learned behavior have lasting reward
- Gently remove outdated experiences over time
I maintain trust in Siri during moments of frustration because she demonstrates this approach well. The clear reward I seek is hands free navigation. Yet for each task Siri can accomplish, the familiar patterns are not lost. Every action can still easily be navigated by the older traditional means when I become frustrated. Through brand loyalty, I can trust that Apple's launch of a new technology like this is no fleeting fad. Just as the iPhone ditched the physical keyboard, Siri may soon prove that many other interface elements are ready for retirement.
No matter how much I anthropomorphize “her,” Siri is an application. Despite my practical dissection of the experience, she feels very human when I rely on her in moments of stress. Those moments arise most often in my car while lost or cranky with hunger. She incites emotion in me. My declarations of “thank you” are genuine replies of relief. My curses when she denies me assistance are actual anger. In what may be Siri's most lifelike quality of all, there is no manual that is provided on our relationship. I am learning how to treat her through trial and error. As she learns my patterns, I learn hers. No longer can I pound buttons, feverishly clicking everything in site when I'm upset. I now pause. I wait for a moment of calm in the din of the city. I repeat with better enunciation. And I wait.
“I've found 5 restaurants matching ‘Wendy's’… 5 are close to you.”
Thank you, Siri.