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UX Design is a Joke

“UX is like a joke. You know it’s bad if you have to explain it.” So what makes a good joke, and how do these principles align with UX design?

You might be surprised at how much the process of writing and delivering a joke is similar to that of UX design, and I’ll be expounding on those ideas in this article.

The Foundation of Humor and UX

There’s a very interesting article on ZME Science discussing the science behind humor. According to this article, researchers have found that the key to humor lies in a rather simple formula:

Humor = tragedy + time or distance.

The main conclusion of these studies is that something needs to be wrong in order for something to be funny.

UX design is developed by identifying problems. Whether it be a new product you’re designing or an old product you’re looking to revamp, the foundation of UX design is motivated by the investigation and assessment of existing problems.

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The Elements of A Joke

There are five main elements to a great joke, according to an article on Mental Floss (5 Elements of a Great Joke):

  1. Premise
    The scope of the joke.
  2. Timing
    Well-timed gestures.
  3. Dramatization
    Other interactions that emphasize the points being driven.
  4. Broader commentary
    Expanding the scope of the joke to real world situations in order to connect with the audience.

    Tight construction
    If you take too long to get to the punchline, the audience will get bored.

Parallel to UX Design

  1. The premise
    The product’s purpose.

  2. Timing & Dramatization
    The UI interactions that emphasize the user’s actions to make the experience more intuitive and enjoyable.

  3. Broader commentary
    Conducting user research and empathizing with your users.

  4. Tight construction
    A combination of user flow and performance. If it’s too difficult or too convoluted to achieve a simple task, and/or if your website or app takes forever to load, your users will feel frustrated and will therefore forego using your product.

Writing A Joke ≈ Designing A Product

A good joke can be written in 11 (seemingly) simple steps, according to WikiHow. These same steps are applicable to designing a good product.

  1. Consider interesting joke material
    It is our mission as UX designers to make the world a better place by developing creative solutions to everyday problems. What is something people struggle with and how can this be improved? Whose lives will this product impact? This is where our mission starts.
  2. Research topics for different situations and audiences
    This is why we do our user research: to tailor our products to different use cases and different personas.
  3. Try to avoid controversial topics that might offend someone
    There are certain interactions, UI components, animations, and other front-end trends that won’t always work well with your product’s intentions. Oftentimes, the best course of action is to keep it sweet and simple.
  4. Consider your joke structure
    In UX, always think about the many use cases of your product, as well as the many different persons using it. Users are humans, and humans have their flaws and disabilities. Always consider the many personalities using your product. Keep the flows concise and remember to design for accessibility and for errors.

    Write the setup and the punchline
    Every product has a call to action and an action. It is our responsibility as UX designers to keep that user flow concise and intuitive.

    Heighten your joke’s surprise factor
    Familiarity and exaggeration will enhance your joke. Make the interactions and flow of your product feel familiar. Put emphasis on your product’s call to action elements to draw your user’s attention.

    Add tags or toppers
    These are additional punchlines that build upon your first punchline. Review and assess your first design iteration and ask yourself how much further can I improve this?
  5. Practice your joke
    Test test test! Always verify that your design meets the intention of the product.
  6. Consider your audience
    We create user personas and do user research in order to fully understand how our users think and feel when working to accomplish the task your product aims to deliver. Don’t just focus on one group of people. Think about the many types of personalities that would be using your product.

    Add gestures
    What UI interactions can you use to enhance the experience of accomplishing tasks with your product? Beyond animations, these can also be font or color choices, and strategic use of whitespace.
  7. Be confident, relax, and improvise if you need to
    Oftentimes, your product will not please everyone on its debut. The beauty of UX design though is that it’s a cycle. We identify and assess the problems that made this version of our product fail, we conduct research and user interviews to base our solutions out of, and then we utilize these findings to develop creative solutions to improve our product.

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In Conclusion

We UX professionals are more than just researchers and designers. We are creative problem solvers.

We identify, assess, and develop solutions to everyday problems.

Our users are people, and people have their own stories, struggles, mindsets, and beliefs. It’s our responsibility as UX professionals to advocate for them by taking inspiration from their personal journeys.

As comedians aim to bring joy to the lives of people through their jokes, it is our mission as UX professionals to bring joy to the lives of people through our craft.

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