The user experience is never digital

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One of the best examples of #gamification (and user experience design) in my book, is a completely non-digital one. The experience itself is never just digital. Digital isn’t an important aspect of a designed experience at all. It Is the experience itself an the emotional response to the design that’s the important thing. Digital sometimes just happens to be a natural part of the solution. And then again, sometimes it’s not. What we experience, when we experience great design, is being immersed in something that makes our ”here and now” feel as the exact right place and time to be. And we are feeling empowered by the things and the people we interact with. Reaching that goal is always dependant to finding the right means for the context.

Working as a hospital clown at hospital in northern Sweden for the last sixteen years I came across some really good design. The dutch counterpart of Swedish ”Barncancerfonden” came up with the perfect way to enhance the rehab Journey for kids diagnosed with cancer. The design is called ”The super string” and consists of a necklace string that you get when you start your treatment. Day one you get your first bead called ”the bead of hope”, which is the start bead. Then you get one bead for each step and every memorable occasion during your treatment. Such as having a birthday, getting good news, having a shot of cortisone, going home etc etc. You can, during your treatment and after, use the necklace to tell the story of your process and what you have been dealing with.

I think this is such a brilliant example of storytelling and feedback since it meets the user in exactly the right context. And digital is not part of the primary solution here at all. But still meets the rules for motivational design providing clear goals, rules and a juicy feedback loop. And just as any other great gamified solution it drives and supports a certain behaviour. Making the experience managable and easy to overview. And the execution and context taken into consideration here is so relatable to the kids: Telling a story making and bead necklace. And of course it could be digitalised. But should it?

So what can we learn from this example? An app still isn’t the solution to every problem. And digital isn’t always the only or even the best solution. And even when it is – it is only a brief part of the full experience!

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