Talking to Joris Huijbregts

Last week we had an interesting conversation about how work as a designer relates to #happiness with Joris Huijbregts (@Joris), UX Lead at the Dutch consultancy

Joris thinks that it’s quite difficult to bring the concept of happiness into projects for most business clients, as conversations are more about business goals than about making people happy. Nonetheless, there is hope, with some companies thriving through working with positive core values that resonate with consumers.

Selected ideas and quotes

Happiness in work as a designer

Happiness is not formally on the agenda as a topic, but everything we do and design touches people lives and organisations.
I get the most satisfaction out of projects where I see positive user response and clients see the actual value of being user centred.
To make projects successful, we
  • validate ideas constantly
  • set clear (metrics-based) goals
  • define a clear product strategy
Happiness is usually a by-product. We try to make sure paying clients are happy in the end.


Psychology in design

I've been learning/reading about behavioural design (designing for goals, emotion), which is nice to think about and put into practice on a tactical level while designing. But hard to put into action specifically for a customer because user research can be expensive and many clients don’t want to pay for an intensive and in-depth exploration of their target groups.
Psychology is fashionable in design right now. I would definitely hire a kick-ass designer with a psychology background.


Business is all about money

Most businesses put business goals ahead of making people happy. It's about extracting the maximum value and making lots of money. Because business culture doesn't define happiness as a goal by itself, it's hard to sell a project about "making people happy." You have to reformulate it in a business culture with a soft approach in talking about it with clients, talking about value and benefits rather than features.
Even in companies that are founded with positive values built into the company, it's hard to maintain values as companies get bigger. Some big companies reinventing themselves have the opportunity to create beautiful work.


The exceptions to the rule

A lot is possible of a company looks for happy users and customers. Lots of banks are not user centred at all although they say they are, their core business model is about extracting value from their customer base, not making people ‘happy’. Even though they have the most advanced and flashy interfaces and advertising campaigns and their customer service might be super good, in the end I think most people still don’t feel happy about banking in general. But some are doing something new. In Holland there is an sustainable bank that is gaining lot of clients thanks to a clear brand proposition, despite a product line that is worse than their competitors from a customer UX standpoint. They are personal, empathic, responsive and transparent about their investments, for instance. And they actually invest in a sustainable and enduring world. Quite a happy cause...
We recently did a project for the public health system that really focused on what health users need: transparent health data. If you want to find a good doctor for your kid or you need a physiotherapist to help you with your back pains a product was designed where you could find the best care giver for your situation in a really easy way. During that project we put user happiness on the map. Because if people would be happy to use such a product, and people would start using it massively, they would be able to actually nudge the whole health care system in a positive way.

Joris recommended a reference that we hadn't found yet: The World Book of Happiness by Leo Bormans, which includes summaries of the work of the 100 most prominent experts in positive psychology. 

Conversation facilitated by Silvia & Nicole. (3-Feb-15)