Aristocratic UX

When designing new and innovative interfaces, we are trying to predict where we are headed and what the future will bring. What will the new user expectations be, and how will be able to best meet them?

Josh Clark has pertinently said that UX does not necessarily bring in new ideas, but implements old dreams instead. One way to do this is to bring magic into our daily lives. Today, we are designing experiences that were once only the realm of magicians. However, the life of an average man not only differs greatly from that of magicians, but also from the life of the aristocracy. Technology often allows us to access what was once only accessible to a select minority.

Let’s look at an example. The Apple Pay function included in the iPhone 6 simplifies many payment procedures. What is happening in reality? You are identified, then somebody executes the payment with the merchant for you. This is a new experience for the average man, but an experience that has been available to the wealthy for millennia.

An aristocrat could easily walk into a store 300 years ago, select what he needed and leave without paying, because he was recognised. His butler, banker or any other representative then took care of payment.

Similarly, unwieldy key use has been replaced by the August Smart Lock, which recognises us based on our smartphone when we come home and opens the door. A pleasant experience, but one that did not require any magic 2000 years ago, merely a loyal servant who, recognising us, opened the gates.

There are of course many new inventions that had no equivalent in the past. It was impossible to talk to people located thousands of kilometres away or to get hold of a book in just a few seconds. However, if we look at the most popular services, we realise that many of them have past historic precedents, albeit in slightly different form.

If we are seeking to incorporate aristocratic experience into our product design and design culture, we have two options. We can either use descriptions and books to familiarise ourselves with the mentality and lifestyle of the aristocracy, of what was natural for them, and translate these into the life of the everyday man.

The other method one is a more difficult procedure, but even more exciting in a sense: to find people who live aristocratic lives or at least grew up in such a setting. It is important that I am not referring to the nouveau riche; money does not make an aristocrat. This is not an easy task in Hungary, because real aristocracy is hard to come by. However, aristocratic traditions have remained more intact in some countries (Western and Southern Europe, Middle East, etc.). If we interview such people about their expectations, habits and mental models, we can create products that nobody would have thought of just a few years ago.

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