In the last decade, we became increasingly surrounded by devices that are with us at every minute of our lives. Some devices even accompany us when we sleep (like FitBit). With the mass introduction of wearables and smart devices into our lives, our interaction with a digital realm is increasingly not just a single focused experience (or even multiple semi-focused experiences throughout the day, as in smart phone) but instead almost a continuous interaction… kind of like a soundtrack of our lives.
So let’s play a little game of UX Synesthesia: what song do you hear when you interact with your devices?
When you use the Apple Watch, for example, is the constant, somewhat random jumping between various swipes, taps and crown presses remind you of? Don’t know about you, but for me, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is about the perfect score: https://youtu.be/5IXMpUhuBMs
And what about a typical stock Android wearable implementation like Moto 360? Is it maybe just a bit like the music of Chopin, like this Fantasie-Impromptu, (opus 66) where notes seem to connect into each other like the endless flow of Android Wear notifications? https://youtu.be/APQ2RKECMW8
NOTE: you may actually have to slow down and listen to each piece for about 2–3 minutes to see what I mean, as well as peruse this brilliant article, On the Wrist: Android Wear vs. Apple Watch by Luke Wroblewski (source for image on the left above): http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1948
How about an “original outlier” wearable like FitBit? When I interact with one of the simpler models like my FitBit Charge HR, it’s exactly like listening to Ravel’s Bolero, a few simple, minimalist screens repeated over and over, in a rising sequence that goes around and around with almost mathematical precision: https://youtu.be/MyO3S-S8spM
(Is it any surprise that some experts claim that Bolero was inspired by “the machines of his father’s factory”? https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Bol%C3%A9ro)
Yet opening the FitBit iPhone app for me results in a jarring disconnect from that simple wearable experience, as the seemingly simple app, actually hides over 200 (two hundred!) screens full of hidden graphs, heavy forms, and endlessly nested screens, a bit like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, where a deceptively simple beginning leads to endless shades of meaning, layers of complexity and interpretation, including this stunning animated short “Premiere Automne” (First Autumn) from Carlos De Carvalho & Aude Danset: https://youtu.be/E5GLlXFtx84
And how about the IoT (Internet of Things) gadgets, like the Nest thermostat? Do you feel your Nest experience flow in the background, a bit like an Enigma song? https://youtu.be/6z44_kMb_F8
Now I’m not asking you, dear reader, to take this Synesthesia exercise too seriously. For all I know, this is a crazy idea, born of too much caffeine, and most certainly, the whole “UX as music” concept is still in it’s infancy. But as we learn to live with all these devices, we are increasingly discovering that there is a definite cadence, a new rhythm and melody to our interactions with a digital realm.
And I strongly believe that music, that has always carried some of these same qualities, can be a useful tool to help visualize this dynamic, multi-faceted UX landscape — a tool that may help us understand why certain digital things delight us, while others feel jarring and leave us cold and irritated… and why our smart devices even seem to affect us differently depending on the time of day.
One last thing: although we all want to compose a “Top 10 of All Time”… Remember, not every experience needs to be (nor should be!) Sweet Child in Time… https://youtu.be/OorZcOzNcgE
So, what does your wearable app sound like?