When our interests, passions and vocations span a wide variety of subjects and fields, it is natural for us to gradually tie things together, grasping something from one arena and lashing it to another, connecting otherwise unrelated concepts on basis of their underlying truths.
For some of us, our “calling” is rooted in our real passion for understanding the human experience and the way our everyday exchanges, interactions, environments and transactions influence our individual happiness and overall human condition. As a writer and IT/software professional, I do not see “writing” and “websites” as being drastically different work, despite the fact that I am paid to do only one – which is, incidentally, also the only on printed on my business card – while I commit time to the other only in the “after hours;” in my “free time.”
To write or to develop a website – or construct a building or prepare a meal – is all effectively the same work, if you do it for the reason of eliciting a response in those who use or consume your finished product. And if this is your “real” work – the dedication to understanding and improving this emotional response – then your medium doesn’t really matter. And to get better at it does not involve dedicating more hours to the craft nearly so much as it does concentrating your attention to the human experience itself. One powerful way to do this? Simply wander.
UX professional Sarah Doody wrote an utterly beautiful article on what she describes as the Flâneur Approach to User Experience Design, in which she introduces and unravels the concept of Le Flâneur, from the French word flâner… simply, “to stroll,” from which came the noun equivalent: le flâneur, a person who would stroll, lounge, or saunter about on the streets.
Originally le flâneur carried negative connotations – someone who was “lazy, mindless and loafing.” Luckily, by the 19th Century, we had a change of heart on this sort of activity, and today “le flâneur is more than just an aimless wanderer. The flâneur’s mind in always in a state of observation. He or she connects the dots through each experience and encounter that comes his or her way. The flâneur is in constant awe of his surroundings.” And it is awe – and wonder and observation and delight – that compels the creative mind to produce something remarkable, whether it is writing or websites or anything in between.
The heart of what [UX professionals] do is creating stories. In the same way that people get lost in a good book, or lose track of time while listening to a great musical composition, they should also get lost in a great product. The experience of engaging with a well-designed product should be effortless. The best authors don’t just start writing. They spend countless hours, months, and even years developing and understanding the characters, plot, and theme that will make up their story. They are careful to leave room for random turns of events, slight moments of genius, and chance insights and observations that can reshape and change everything.
As it is with design, so too it is with writing. The experience of doing both “well” – and crafting something exquisite – is nearly identical in that it is rooted in our connection with the world at large and the human spirit, and Sarah nailed this.
You can read the rest of her truly wonderful article here. Clearly, it comes very highly recommended.