Instructional Design

UX Design and Consumer Markets

UX Design and Consumer Markets

On a recent episode of Exponent Ben Thompson made a statement concerning user experience that, as is typically true of Ben’s thinking, is spot on.1 He states:

“In consumer markets where the buyer is the user there is much more value placed on this kind of third axis, which is the user experience. And people are willing to pay for that.”

He is stating this as a potential reason why a company like Apple can have unparalleled success in the consumer market while defying so many of the other rules of business. As anecdotal evidence to his point, Apple’s focus on user experience is the primary reason I have stuck with Apple’s ecosystem since switching in 2007.

I think his argument also holds true in my field of instructional design and educational technology. Many of the designers and tools out there do amazing work, but quite often the overall user experience leaves something to be desired. An instructional designer that can offer an incredible user experience on top of communicating the necessary information is probably going to find themselves in high demand. To reiterate Ben’s point about this third axis of user experience, “people are willing to pay for that”

Ben’s perspective here is part of why I adore his podcast and website. He is able to break down and analytically consider the way businesses in the technology space function. I am incredibly interested in business but find most writing and discussion on the topic dry, uninspiring, and unwilling to consider new perspectives. Ben’s ability to write about business and technology in a way that is captivating and relatively unbiased is impressive. It is worth your time to give his site a visit and his show a listen.

  1. Although I state this about an episode of his show that contains something I disagree with. I am not aligned with his thoughts that Apple is “backing out” of iCloud at all.

Defend Your Design

William Horton (2011), an expert on e-learning design, writes “design is decision; development is construction” (p. 2). Many designers out there would say, “But of course,” and nod their heads

Unfortunately it is not common to see people execute in this way. Many designers, myself included, fall into the trap of starting with a rough idea and just diving in to development. In this instance did you make a decision? Did you go with the first idea you had or the second? Why? What about the third, fourth, or twentieth idea you had? A goal for myself this year is to establish a defense for my decision before I begin development. The first idea I have may have been the best choice. That comes with experience. Not understanding the reasoning behind my decision, on the other hand, is a sign of folly. 

I would argue that in the ADDIE model there needs to be another step between design and develop – defend. Design, Defend, Develop. If you design a strategy and cannot defend it you need to stop and reconsider the design before proceeding. This is not to suggest that you should get caught in the trap of over thinking. Your defense may have flaws that you cannot address, but if you have not considered the argument against your choice you are failing to give your product and it’s intended audience the respect they deserve.


Horton, W. (2011). E-learning by design (2nd ed.). United Kingdom: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated.


The more time I spend thinking about design the more I find an obsession with beginnings. There is an overwhelming amount of time devoted to analyzing, planning, and strategizing. Even when a good designer completes a project they immediately begin evaluating it and start looking for ways to improve the product and start the cycle over again. This could perhaps explain why so many of my friends who are designers seem quite miserable. They love their work and they create beautiful projects, but they are never completely satisfied. They are so good at what they do they end up focusing on minor pieces that can be improved rather than enjoying what they have created.

This concern can also stifle many of us from even getting started on a project or sharing the work we have done. I know I for one am incredibly guilty of this. For example I have attempted to design the structure the purpose of this website over and over again to the point I was never actually producing anything. Only recently have I realized that the best designers are often the ones who can create something, revel in it for some time, and then comfortably wipe the slate clean and start over. Producing something imperfect and being okay with that seems to be a fundamental stepping stone on the path to being a great designer. God is the greatest designer of all time according to my friends that believe in a higher power. But even God produced a world that initially appeared to be perfect but ended up being quite the opposite. Then, as the story goes God decided to wipe his design clean with a flood before starting over with only the pieces that were truly good. We could even argue that Revelations suggests that God knows this cycle of starting over will be a necessary step again in the future.

I will stop that comparison here before someone thinks I am claiming designers are gods. Although, I do have to admit that some of the designers I know certainly seem to think they are. What I am trying to say, however, is that perhaps we should start all new projects by declaring, “I will fail.” And that’s okay because our failures help us identify areas for improvement while simultaneously letting us see what worked well and should be retained. With that concept in mind I would like to begin this blog. I hope you enjoy watching me fail.