I have always been a proponent of the integration of user experience across all touch points of a solution and push the idea that product design is transcending the physicality of the item and being required to provide experiential functionality which extends and augments the products reason for being.
So what exactly does that mean?
Lets look at a simple example... A salt shaker design. Great, so we start with the salt. Salt comes in different varieties, granulated, course, sea salt which is slightly larger than regular and fancy. So we first see what the market and client says about which one we will design for. Here is a bit of research, a bit of talking, a bit of questioning, a bit of going out to stores to see what is out there already, a bit of web searching for visuals. Once we decide which salt... Screw that... It isn't about the salt.
It is about the user... So lets look at the user... What does salt mean to them? How do they interact with salt during their day? What is important to them when it comes to salt? Is Angela Jolie going to do a sequel?
Lets assume we research the user and the target market &c. for a second... Then lets look at my first statement again. Go ahead, read it one more time...
Right. So now the salt shaker needs to track how much salt each person is using during the day, compare it to their dietary needs and requirements and personal settings and then meter out the salt appropriately in order to help the user come to healthier life choices as well as provide them with data to track their salt intake...
Let me tell you a short story that goes from cigarettes to sugar.
When I left Japan I promised my wife I would quit smoking. I had smoked near a pack a day since I was 15 and getting on 35 it was time to give it up. I tell you, it is hard to quit when everyone around you smokes, and near everyone in Japan does, everywhere... and at $2 a pack it is really hard to let go. So about a year before I was going to leave I set a schedule to quit and slowly cut back on the strength of cigarette I was smoking. I didn't pay attention to how many though. I just weaned myself off the nicotine gradually until I couldn't get a lighter cigarette. Then I set a schedule to reduce the number I smoked a day until i had gradually changed my habit where I was down to about 3 a day. I got on a plane and 21 hours later without a cigarette and lots of water I never looked back.
So the sugar thing. I used to put an ass load of sugar in my tea... Like 3 heaping spoons in a large mug... So I started slowly reducing how much went into each cup... I'm down to about 1 and a half spoons now and have slowly changed my taste buds to become accustomed to the lower sugar concentration.
Lots of people don't notice, don't care or don't have the will power to make these changes. But lets say we design a complete user experience salt shaker that not only dispenses salt, but tracks and has the ability to meter it out. That isn't all though for a complete experience. There has to be more because really that is just a technical problem.
When it comes down to it, the presentation of the data that the salt shaker can collect, both that which it has no control over and that which it does, has the ability to provide experiential functionality which extends and augments the salt shakers reason for being.
So now we end up using sensors on the salt shaker, the packaging becomes e-ink in order to display the users salt consumption, it knows who is using the salt and adjusts the data presented for that user, it talks to the bulk salt box in the cupboard to see if you need to buy more salt, and reminds you the next time you are in the grocery store with an sms to your phone, which then gives you a coupon... No personal information was harmed in the making of this simplification of your life choices.
At the end of the day, it is one little thing you don't have to think about but add up all the grains and you have a decent pile of salt.