Quest UX: Getting Educated


It’s been 5 weeks since I started on my quest to learn more about User Experience Design. To keep me on track, I’ve created some quest milestones to mark progress and breakdown UX Mastery‘s first step, Get Educated.

The torches light my path as I go down step on each stone in the paved tunnels of Webland. Each step brings a satisfying thunk as the pavement sinks in to place. Sometimes stepping on one stone shudders an entire wall into motion. It lifts up and is sucked into the ceilings revealing behind it another path in a cloud of dust.

This is the path I’ve chosen.

UX: Learn Three New Things

UX Reading 30 Minutes a Day:
Books, Blogs, Community

UX Intro Course

Udemy: David Travis’
UX The Ultimate Guide to Usability

UX HTML & CSS Basics




UX Get Educated: Completed 3 of 3

Quest Objective Complete

What makes a hero?


When we picture the heroes in stories, we might imagine them in the throws of their heroic moments. The dashing into battle, outwitting of the evil villain and sweeping in to save the day. Yet, the hero didn’t start this way, the stories we remember are ones of transformation, of change, of becoming. They are a journey.

The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campell’s ‘Hero’s journey’ is a pattern of narrative that he identified across thousands of stories, myths and religions in the world. The journey steps depicted in the video is a shortened version and there are in fact 12 stages that the hero experiences.

The Hero's Journey


In this picture of the full 12 stages, you can see that there is an additional one in-between “Call to Adventure” and “Meeting the Mentor.”

An early step called, “Refusal of the Call” 

The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure….

Of all the steps in the hero’s journey this is the one that fascinates me.

It is the story representation of what psychologists have been studying for years - that moment on the cusp of change, when people are fearful of it and yet hopeful too. What is it that moves an individual from inaction to action?

What motivates us to accept the call to adventure?

When writing, the refusal of the call moment can be a difficult one to write in a story. We reject the idea of our protagonist not wanting to take up their journey. Imagine Frodo stays in the shire after all, leaving the responsibility of the ring to another. It would make for a pretty short story.

Why have the hesitation at all, why create a moment of possible refusal when who doesn’t want to go on an adventure, conquer evil, get the princess, save the day?

And the truth is. We don’t.

A Life Story

We know in our hearts that the refusal of the call defines us as humans, as much our capacity to be the one who accepts the challenge. We do it every day, with our own fears and beliefs in our own limitations. We close them into a box and carry on with our lives, living out the story we’ve always told ourselves and too afraid to challenge it. In social psychology studies, this is a cognitive bias known as Status Quo bias.

Status Quo Bias is the human tendency to like things to stay relatively the same. The current situation is taken as the reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss.

Assumptions of longevity (long lasting), goodness as well as inertia (resistance to change) are said to be contributing factors to status quo bias.

Source: MBA Brief

The hero’s journey is a story that tells us over and over again that we can overcome this bias. That we are capable of breaking out of that inertia.

The interesting thing aboThe Story Needs Youut the ‘refusal of the call’ is that overcoming it, is rarely about wanting to be the hero.

If Frodo had been given the choice to see his journey in its entirety, the trials he would endure, the pain and the loss. Would he still have taken that first step?

The epic tale told afterwards might sound heroic in hindsight, but what moves the character and therefore us to action, we find, is something much closer to the things we’d recognize in everyday life.

A trusted friend tells you its important, so Frodo takes the ring. A promise to someone you love, when Katniss says she’ll try to win the Hunger games for her sister. Or accepting your differences, gives you power your never knew of, “You’re a wizard, Harry!”

It’s funny how all these stories were originally written for younger audiences. Lord of the Rings was written as Tolkein’s sequel to his children’s fantasy novel, the Hobbit. Harry Potter and the Hunger games were both originally sold to a kids and young adults market.  Perhaps that’s telling in itself, that we think of these stories as aimed at children, yet adults fall in love with them just as much.

As children, we have a bravery that isn’t weathered down by age. We hold on to the belief in our ability to chart and change our own futures. We still believe in the stories of important, epic and individual change.

The Story of our Time

I’ve talked about epic stories from our history being a great analogy to help us understand and face the challenges of climate change. The scale of these stories, from putting a man on the moon to abolishing slavery, are so large and sweeping that they are marked in our history as times that changed the way we view ourselves and what we are capable of as human beings.

Yet look around, in the midst of climate change news and scientific consensus, the status quo seems to just keep on rolling.

The thing about those historical stories is that they seem to unroll their events in a sweeping story of emotion and victory. We think, if I was the hero at the cusp of such a historical moment in human history, the call to adventure would be unmissable. It would be too obvious and too huge to refuse, right?

Except we forget that those signposts don’t exist until the historians and the victors write of them afterwards. Only when the journey is over, do the bards line-up the verses and craft a beautiful tale.

Living in the moment of an epic story means being just one person still living out our life. We each still face our own hero’s journey and very much play out our own ‘refusal of the call’.

If I said to you.

Tackling climate change will be the biggest thing that will ever happen in your lifetime. This is the biggest difference you will ever make to the world.

What is your reaction? Do the words sounds bombastic, idiotic? As childish and ridiculous perhaps as “You’re a wizard, Harry.”

Yet this is the story that is unfolding. A repeated call each and every day to every men, women and child of this generation. It is a call to adventure to the hero in each of us, insistent, frightening and tempting, to step outside our ordinary worlds and into the story of our time.

The User Experience in Saving the World


Advocacy Campaigning

Advocacy is defined as the act of supporting a cause or issue to achieve a desired result. It is your actions directed specifically at changing the world for the better, however, you define that. Whilst a campaign is simply an organized course of action to achieve a goal.

An advocacy campaign, as opposed to a marketing or political campaign, is differentiated by its intention to achieving one of these four types of goals:

  • raising awareness
  • helping more people contribute to the end goal
  • aligning opinion formers
  • lobbying decision makers

These goals broadly describe what the campaign needs to achieve to be be successful, but does not capture what it means to be the user or ‘advocate’ of a campaign.

The Experience of Everything

I recently came across Jesse James Garrett‘s talk at UX Week 2009, which defined user experience (UX) with four dimensions: Perception, Action, Cognition and Emotion.

Jesse James Garret PACE 26:20

The PACE model and UX disciplines

External engagement: Our interaction with the world via

  • Perception: engaging the senses
  • Action: engaging the body

Internal engagement: What’s going on in our heads through

  • Cognition: engaging the mind
  • Emotion: engaging the heart

Making up the acronym PACE.

UX Element / DisciplinePACE DimensionNotes
Information ArchitectureCognitionConcerned with the way people process and gain meaning from information.
Information DesignCongnition, PerceptionDeals with the intersection between thinking and perceiving
Visual DesignPerception
Interaction DesignActionIt's all about behaviour
Navigation Design
Interface Design
Congnition, Perception, ActionFocusing on where these 3 come together

In fact, Garrett states that all areas of design fit with this model.

4 Dimensions of UX (PACE)

The PACE Model and Other Design Disciplines

It’s not surprising to see game design placed at the centre of these 4 dimensions. But it dawned on me, that advocacy and campaigning also fit very much at this centre.

Like the experience of choosing to play a game, a call to ‘change the world for the better’ is one that must engage us to see, feel, think and then act voluntarily towards an unnecessary goal.

A Voluntary Act

An advocacy campaign expects to change the world, but for the majority of people those specific goals, no matter how lofty or worthy will simply be pushed aside by the demands of their everyday lives. This is true even in the case of advocacy for issues that may seem wholly necessary by those already committed to it.

Even with climate change campaigning and epic high stakes. No one has to save the world.

Our everyday lives are wrapped in the comfortable acceptance of the way things are. An average user’s perception of a campaign starts with viewing the goal as unnecessary.

A campaign must take someone from seeing an unnecessary goal through to acting for it passionately. To create a transformation and experience, it would bring all four UX dimensions together in harmony and add a world changing purpose to it.

In short, to campaign to save the world, it requires the design of hero experiences.