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Playing with Perception

Whether you have a website, writing a book or releasing a new product, people will experience your work with a certain impact, a perception, depending on how you approach them. And maybe people won’t receive the experience you thought they would. You need to understand how to create the experience and how it is perceived.

Why Experience is important

American author, Clarence Day said it well: “Information's pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.” Without a specific experience most things become boring and not of interest.

Experience is often said to be built up by two aspects. The first is the actual event, and the second is the way in which we internally interpret that event, that is to say how we perceive it. Our perception shapes the experience with memories of past occurrences and our belief structures. Our belief structure is directly connected to our values, which is the core, or the essence of our emotions. What we value, we feel. In our body we experience the emotions.

It’s important to remember that you’re the one that is the perceiver and it’s from “your world” you’re seeing and experiencing. “Your world”, your perception is your reality. We embrace different bits and pieces of society and culture to make these components into a more individual reality for ourselves.

Create and Share

When creating an experience, think about who you want to share it with. Everyone will not value it equally. You can’t force your own personal beliefs on other people when you present your work. You need to focus on those who experience life in the same manner you do. Another option is to adapt and reshape an experience to fit another group. Our perception becomes our reality, it forms our identity as people.

In short: see and understand the world through other people’s perception, from there you become a creator and create experience. People will only reply to you when they understand the experience in which you’re sharing, and when they value it. You need to speak the “same language”: bring up the problems that matters and ask the important questions if you want to receive any response. Most often if you understand a person's values you can actually get the feelings they might feel in a specific situation.

Experience in different packages

One thing that messes up experience is confusion. Avoid the common mistake of being involved in too many subjects that are completely different from each other and gives away various feelings that build up a blurry and offbeat experience. A film that really does this is called Slipstream, don't watch it, or do watch it if you want to understand what not to do.

Stick to only one theme, one expression, combine emotions with the intention to create one experience which is easy to comprehend instantaneously. People come back to experience a certain feeling, whether it’s sad or happy. We want to become dragged into a new world but it must be simple to relate that world to our own. In other words we want the emotions of our values in a different context. The values are the same but the experience is different.

Passive or Active Experience

Passive experiences are, for instance, entertainment where we are absorbing feelings and information without lifting a finger, one good example is television. Another passive experience is an aesthetic experience; it can be anything from viewing art to being astonished by nature.

An active experience is, as the name applies, an experience that gives the user the opportunity to take action. Examples of active experiences are educational and escapist experiences. With educational experiences we can take action while we absorb new knowledge in which we adapt to our own lives. An escapist (an active entertainment) experience is when we take a trip to a carnival, scuba dive or play video games (entering a virtual world of possibilities, which is escaping our reality).


Where to start

It is rather difficult to avoid an experience, but if you’re not sure what the experience is that you want to showcase, it’s very unlikely that the user/customer will like it.

If you don’t know how and where to begin when creating an experience, let go of everything else that is keeping you busy and find a place where you can calmly sit down and intentionally pounder about an experience you would like for your user/customer to have when entering your website or buying your product. Brainstorm ideas on what you want to focus on; don’t be afraid to write down whatever crosses your mind: don’t stop when your ideas seem to be stupid, just keep going until you’ve come up with good conclusions.

After your brainstorming session, take a clean paper and write down your experience – make it easy to comprehend. When you’ve finally decided your experience, stick to it! The only time you can change an experience is when you deliberately want to change the entire thing as it’s not working. But if you create an experience and constantly break your own rules, people will not be able to relate to you and the experience won’t be in flow, you will constantly break their perception and ruin the party.

Make your Experience Memorable

How do you know that an experience is any good?

Well, you make it memorable. If you can describe your experience with one word, you know you’re on a good way. The easier it is to comprehend your experience, the easier it is to remember and also associate your particular work to that experience. You want to be in the forefront of peoples’ minds. So when they want to experience that certain emotion or state, they come to you.

Here’re a couple of keys to make your experience memorable:

• Make it really easy to understand. Simple.
• Make sure that it’s unique, if the experience is used elsewhere; make sure that you give the strongest impression.
• Don’t break your own rules and values, for instance, if your experience is circulating the emotion “happy” then stay away from sad things.
• Serve; don’t hesitate to offer more than the norm does.
• Own it! Make sure that your experience is difficult to copy or improve.
• All your actions must be in relevance to your experience, if not, you’re breaking the pattern, breaking trust.

When you’ve created an experience, stay away from it, don’t change it too much, and let the users get on and do what they actually want to do. Instead of criticizing and getting upset when people don’t respond to you, dare to look at what’s not working and see if you’re really connecting the right users/customers or displaying your experience in the right manner.

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