Your Environment Impacts Your Impression

by Kelley Parsons
Often when we think of the user-centered design process and the methods used to optimize a user’s experience, we think in terms of its utility to aid in maximizing design improvements for a device’s interface, or perhaps, its physical properties.  However, there are opportunities beyond this common application. If we consider that a user’s experience can be influenced by interactions that occur within a broader system or service.  We can also further note that the definition of an interface is the point at which two systems meet, we can then explore the possibilities of utilizing a user-centered design approach (and any number of methodologies) to assess the impact of the environment on user perceptions or experiences as they occur within that environment. To date, the results of many large studies have shown a strong relationship between the physical environment and the perceptions of its occupants. For example, when a doctor’s office waiting room was considered to be newer in appearance, had nice furnishings, artwork etc., patient’s perceived quality of care was positively influenced while their reported anxiety decreased.
When considering the applications of user-centered design and the impact of user experience, we think beyond its being a way to gauge user perceptions of a device interface and consider it as a possible means of assessing user perceptions of the space or ‘interface’ within which people are providing a particular service.

Food For Thought

Just as a poorly designed product interface can result in negative perceptions of the product as a whole, a poorly designed environment can result in negative perceptions of quality of service as a whole.