Adaptive Path's UX Week 2010 kicked off Tuesday at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, and it couldn't have been a better day for it; the first beautifully hot, summery weather I've seen since I landed at SFO earlier this summer. This year's UX Week promises an interesting line-up of game designers to meta-thinkers, each steeped in the study of people and behavior. You may consider UX folks nerds, but give us credit for being some of the most socially adept nerds you'll ever meet.UX Week MC & Parter at Adaptive Path, Peter Merholz, explained this is "a week without a theme," though I've noticed a few commonalities among the presentations. One theme, Iteration, stood out on Tuesday. Adam Mosseri outlined his data-driven iterations on Facebook's navigation, Ben Fry led us through his iterative visualizations of the human genome, and Jeffrey Veen (founding partner of Adaptive Path and Typekit) compared the permutations of the ice industry to the launch-early-and-iterate-quickly ethos of Typekit. From a single day of presentations, it became clear that User Experience design requires a "Shoot first. Ask questions. Repeat." kind of mentality.
Though I was excited to see Ben Fry, Jeffrey Veen, and BJ Fogg, the highlight of the day was Nicole Lazzaro. Nicole is the Founder and President of XEODesign, an Oakland based Player Experience Design firm. She proposed a transformative design concept: applying gaming principals to things we don't typically consider games: work, school, preparing dinner, or reading the newspaper.
Of course, that's not a particularly ground-breaking proposal. Game principals have always been a part of non-game systems. We all grew up getting gold-stars in elementary school. What is Employee-of-the-Month if not a grown-up's Big Gold Star? New social applications like Four Square offer badges (a.k.a. gold stars) for using their service. At heart, using gaming principles to encourage behavior isn't a unique proposal. What is unique about Nicole's proposal is her particular model of fun.
By researching emotive facial expression during gameplay and grouping experiences by emotional response, Nicole and her team have theorized four distinct types of fun: Hard, Easy, Serious, and People-centric. Each has it's own effect on our emotional state, and it takes a number of these experiences to create an emotionally satisfying player experience. Gold stars or badges are only a small piece of a larger puzzle. By instilling a number of these types of fun into the experiences we design, we can create incredibly powerful experiences that can positively shape both emotional satisfaction and behavior.
If you're interested in finding out more about XEODesign and Nicole's work, check out her white papers and slides on slideshare.