UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 491 February 19, 2010

What Magic Can Teach Us About Empathy in UX

Great presentation by magician Jamy Ian Swiss, who explains concepts like mental models and storytelling by equating software to magic.

Jamy Ian Swiss at Gel 2009 from Gel Conference.

Jamy Ian Swiss calls himself an "honest liar," because as a magician, he promises to deceive his audience, and then promptly does. User interface designers are somewhat similar, though probably a bit less honest. We constantly lie to our users about what they actually see. A button on a screen isn’t really a button, it’s a bunch of colored dots. The better we lie to users, to more easily we can convince them that it actually is a button.

So while we may not be as honest as magicians, our lies nevertheless are in the user’s best interest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Lukas Mathis works as a software engineer and user interface designer for a Swiss software company creating workflow management software. He lives in a small village in a remote part of the Swiss Alps. Visit Lukas' website athttp://www.ignorethecode.net/ or follow him on Twitter @LKM.

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Comments

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Who is Jared Spool?

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Great discussion. very entertaining. I might argue that web design is more about sharing in the suspension of disbelief, than lying :)

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Thanks, Tim ;-)

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Spool gave a talk at SXSW 2008 called "Magic and Mental Models", where he did magic tricks to demonstrate how what you see in an interface doesn't necessarily correlate to what's going on in the background.

http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2008/03/05/magic-and-mental-models-using-illusion-to-simplify-designs/

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@Rob: C'mon, just because a subject has been discussed before doesn't mean it should never be discussed again. This guy's presentation was unique and entertaining, and it's really interesting to see an examination of our field from the perspective of someone outside the industry. I never heard Jared Spool talking about this (nor have probably 98% of readers) so I'm grateful to Lukas for writing about this.

If you're going to post snarky comments, please at least be constructively snarky by posting a link to whatever Jared Spool said 3 years ago so we can learn more about this subject.

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Hey, I remember when Jared Spool talked about this oh, about 3 years ago.