Why reciprocity is vital to any user experience.

Pandas
Pandas
Photo by Pascal Müller, Unsplash

Years before the American President Richard Nixon stretched out his arms to form his famous V-sign, he was wrapping them around a pair of Chinese giant pandas named Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing. The two bears likely did not realize they were a part of a much larger embrace between two distant countries, brought together by international diplomacy and the power of reciprocation: a concept that spans borders, as well as every facet of user experience design.


What a 500-year-old book teaches us about UX and empathy.

Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, 1873, by Matejko. In background: Frombork Cathedral
Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, 1873, by Matejko. In background: Frombork Cathedral
Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, 1873, by Matejko. In background: Frombork Cathedral.

For nearly 500 years, astronomers have embraced the belief that the Earth travels around the Sun. Nicolaus Copernicus wrote about his heliocentric theory in his 1543 book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres.

Copernicus’ work revolutionized astronomy. However, at the time, many people did not agree with his theories. Scholars and clergy ridiculed Copernicus, and in 1616, the Vatican banned his book. Luckily, Copernicus had the forethought to die shortly after its first publication. He avoided the worst his critics had to offer.


Illustration of people in a crowd
Illustration of people in a crowd

The moral philosopher John Rawls spoke of empathy in his book A Theory of Justice. Although he never directly referred to empathy in his text, he orchestrated a prime example of empathetic thinking. He constructed a thought experiment by asking people to design their own society.


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Photo by Samuel Fyfe on Unsplash

Hiawatha Service 332 bypasses the steady state of arterial road traffic between Milwaukee and Chicago. In 89 minutes, the train’s riders depart Miltown’s intermodal gateway and eventually find themselves in the heart of Chicago’s Union Station. Long an early morning refuge for blurry-eyed salespeople and late-night party-goers, Hiawatha attracts a wide assortment of professions, cultures, and hangovers. However, each rider’s trip is unique, because each is a selective perception.


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“Frog, Golden Eyes, Macro”​ by Josch13, Pixabay, used under CC0

When designing experiences, favor what users already know.

NARRATED AUDIO VERSION OF THE ARTICLE

Michigan J. Frog was unlike any other frog. He sang. He danced. He was destined for stardom. In Warner Bros.’ 1955 cartoon, One Froggy Evening, a construction worker freed Michigan from a time capsule buried within a recently demolished building’s cornerstone. Upon reaching the open air, the frog stood and sang, “Hello my baby, hello my honey. Hello, my ragtime gal. Send me a kiss by wire. Baby, my heart’s on fire.” …

About

Edward Stull

User experience designer and researcher | author of UX Fundamentals for Non-UX Professionals http://amzn.com/1484238109

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