Saturday, November 06, 2004


A couple weeks ago, Julie Delpy appeared at the Rafael Film Center to answer questions from the audience after a special screening of her fabulous movie, "Before Sunset." That movie consists largely of a single, wonderful conversation between Celine (played by Julie) and Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) as they walk about Paris -- a resumption of a conversation begun 9 years earlier when they first met in the prequel "Before Sunrise." In that prequel, the two instantly connected, and their resulting walk around Vienna consisted largely of a wonderful, intimate, revealing conversation, akin to the followup in "Before Sunset."

Have you participated in those kinds of conversations -- conversations where a strong connection is established quickly -- a connection that enables the participants to be unusually open and to readily reveal much of importance?

I had had a conversation not long before that special screening that seemed to me to be of the nature of the conversation depicted in the two movies. The conversation began on our initial meeting immediately following my on-stage conversation with Don Norman (see earlier postings), resumed over dinner 4 evenings later, continued through coffee in a late night cafe, and then extended through rainfall -- mostly unnoticed by the two of us -- as we strolled along a San Francisco street into the wee hours of the morning. It was wonderful. It was unexpected. It was rare.

But I've had many conversations of a related nature -- conversations I've initiated and that emerge from the very quick establishment of a connection which facilitates participant openness and substantive revelation -- conversations with colleagues or with people who have reported to me in a workplace, or with potential users of a product or service as yet to be conceived or in some stage of design, or with experts in business, design, or the like on stage before an audience at an event -- all conversations essential to "changing the role user experience plays in business."

I had several such conversations with potential users of a product earlier this week. And they, too, were wonderful. No, not as wonderful as my conversation in the rain, or the conversation between Celine and Jesse. But they left all participants happy they had established such a connection, and they revealed much of great importance to the design of the product.

According to Julie Delpy, the conversation in the two movies, which was so real, had been entirely scripted. But it had emerged from a collaboration among Julie, Ethan, and director Richard Linklater, all committed to developing a rich, real experience -- just as my partly-scripted portions of my conversations with potential users emerged from a collaboration among designers, engineers, other potential users, and business personnel committed to developing the best user experience possible.

How well does your business connect with users or potential users of its products and services? Are those essential connections unexpected and rare? Or are they initiated frequently, and conducted in such a way that they contribute greatly to developing the best user experience possible?