Wednesday, June 01, 2005
telic and paratelic design
Usability is about the telic, emotional design is about the paratelic. What is simple and reassuring to some is dull and uninspiring to others. Different users may experience the same design as either exciting or anxiety producing -- based on their goals. If user doesn't care about winning a game, for example, the game is exciting. If he or she is dead serious about winning, it is anxiety producing.
If you are goal-focused, your ideal is to be relaxed, not but not apathetic. If you want to have fun, you want to be excited, not over-excited. There is a thin line between these states.
I think this idea has some fascinating implications. Potentially, fun might be demotivating for someone pursuing a serious goal. One might need to rethink notions that "learning should be fun" if you expect students to put in effort. The slacker student figures the only thing that matters is only the immediate experience of the moment; don't worry about getting it right or wrong -- homework isn't necessary. The serious student (think Lisa Simpson) might get stressed out by the fun.
On a website do you emphasize high returns on a mutual fund (paratelic) or explain prominently all the risks about past performance not being an indication of future performance (telic)? Some financial companies believe greed always prevails, but some people are stressed by appeals to greed. The question is my mind is: does the greedy person have serious goals and future-orientation, or is it just a game?
The third component, which I will dub, post-telic, concerns those who are living in the past. In my experience, about 80% of the people you work with and meet socially, spend much of their time regretting, repressing, or fantasizing about their past. They are in present time or future-oriented only for short periods, if at all.
Much of today's design is being used by people who are barely in present time.