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Jul 2008

Facial expression, a reflection of user experience

Recently, an article on Technaute (Cyberpresse) caught my attention.  It’s about Phillip Toledano, a photographer from New York who takes stunning portraits of real people playing video games.

The immersive nature of videogames can engage users into user experiences which can almost be described as extreme.  Toledano’s portraits depict this rather clearly.  He managed to capture the whole range of emotions:  frustration, joy, fear, surprise, hatred…

Wouldn’t it be interesting to do the same exercise, only with people using ATMs, self-serivce ticketing machines, web sites or cell phones?  That’s precisely what user interface designers do when they test applications.  A user’s facial expressions are very useful for identifying interface components which create difficulties, frustration, and even satisfaction.  Nothing makes it clearer to our clients than directly seeing the users of their systems speechless and confused in front of an incomprehensible menu, or smiling after completing a task without any difficulties.

Toledano’s spectacular work illustrates beautifully how human-machine interaction can ellicit a wide range of emotions from the user.

PS:  Mr. Toledano’s portfolio could use a more intuitive navigation, but that’s another story…

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