Aligning User Experience with Communication Theory to Explain Why We Love and Hate Hotels

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Richard SteinbergGeorge White

Abstract: Rhetorical theorist Sonja Foss introduced a theory of visual rhetoric in 1971 (Foss,2004). Aligning Applied Human Factors Engineering (AHFE) with visual rhetoric can provide the field of UX with a deeper understanding of how a design can impact the effective performance and usability of products. According to Foss, visual objects are not inherently rhetorical, but when they are organized to express symbolic action, allow for human intervention, and target a specific audience, these visual systems gain rhetorical significance (Foss, 2004). All the various user interfaces (UI) that humans interact with day to day include attempts by a user experience (UX) designer to "guide" the user to the proven, most effective, lowest-risk means of accomplishing a specific goal. Aligning user experience (UX) with the principles of rhetorical theory establishes an important facet through which the designer can understand why a UI design fails or succeeds. Aristotle taught that the speaker accomplishes persuasion accomplished by appealing to the three pillars of rhetoric: logos (appealing to logic), pathos (appealing to emotions), and ethos (appealing from authority).Similarly, Don Norman stated (2013), "Cognition provides understanding, and emotion provides value judgement." Norman also discussed (2003) that trust in the UI is damaged when UI doesn't meet these cognitive and emotional expectations. Consider an experience many Americans have in common, staying overnight in a hotel. Every hotel works similarly, understood through the hotel business's well-established practices and expectations built on previous experiences. But imagine what transpires when the experience breaks convention and the unexpected happens. Incorporating rhetorical principles in design considers how users identify and communicate to others in their user group. Appealing to the users through logos, pathos, and ethos helps the designer communicate more effectively, meeting the user's needs. When these pillars work together to communicate with the user more accurately, it improves a user’s discoverability of product features, and system affordances become a pleasant, straightforward experience to enhance the usability of products. High-usability products correlate to reduced cognitive load, task time reduction, and reduced fatigue time. Foss et., Helmers, Marguerite H., and Charles A. Hill. Defining Visual Rhetorics. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. Web.Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. Revised and expanded edition. New York, New York: Basic Books, 2013. Print.

Keywords: User Experience, Rhetoric, Communication Theory, Usability

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003230

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