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.


Is the world saved yet?


The world needs saving, so I went to the people who would hold the answers. I went to work for Supers Inc and for a while I slept a little better. I thought, rather naively “I’ve joined the good guys now, the ones who’ll fix this mess. So if I just do my job the best that I can, then the world will be saved…right?”

Three years on and it looks like the apocalypse is still bang on, or even ahead, of schedule. (Video from last month, 8-May-14)

At Supers Inc, my job is to draw out the plans and when it comes to the work of changing the world we talk about it in 18 month or 3 year campaigns. 10 year strategies to really achieve change. When they explain this all to me, I nod and listen.

“Changing the world takes grit. It takes determination. It takes time.”

So I write down the dates down, fill in the plans that extend a neat black line out to the far-right of the page and in my head I want to scream. “We’re screwed!”

I feel like the spoiled kid when I think this. A teenager in the back of the car, strapped down in my seat belt and writhing uncomfortably. Asking again.

“Are we nearly there yet?”

No. Comes the answer from the weary heads eyes fixed on the road ahead. The superheroes, who have been fighting for “the cause” their whole lives.

“No, the world isn’t saved yet.” They reply. “It always needs saving.”

The time inside the car moves slowly, but outside I see the road signs flit pass my window. The days and years flying past, whilst the markings of another carefully drawn plan are discarded on a pile on the floor.

I can’t help but feel we’re using the planning modes of an outdated era. A list of orders to be handed off and executed on. A set of specification documents to be written and re-written, signed-off and passed over the wall.  A plan within a complex world that doesn’t bend to risk logs.

Instead, perhaps the business of saving the world could learn from the perspectives of a start-up model and culture.

3 Reasons Why Saving the World is Like a Start-up

1. We are creating something “new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” (para-phased Eric Reiss)

2. Engaging people to change the world requires “an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable change model.” (bastardised Steve Blank)

3. An endeavour that is designed to grow fast (re-applied Paul Graham)

Three New Things


Real life has no tutorials. So instead, when embarking on any new quest, we must learn to build our own.

Hexagon Paving

I take the steps down into the tunnel, in Webland, one tentative foot in front of another towards the faint light until I reach around the corner. Here I am faced with a path of hexagon paving stones, as far as I can see, branching out down spidery tunnels all around.

As I test one foot on the tunnel floor I feel my weight bear down on it and the sound of stone on stone grates underneath.

I hold my breath, as the torches dim around me, then flare up with a sudden roar that echos down the tunnels. They blast a wave of heat across my face and flames crackle high along every wall burning a yellow handwriting across that reads.

“What three new things do you know, that you did not know before?”

The kindly man, A Dance with Dragons

The Quest Begins

This is how I imagine the start of my quest to learn about User Experience Design. To expand my understanding of crafting human experiences beyond the realms of gamification.

It starts with 30 minutes.

  • 10 minutes a day reading from UX community Q&As via UX Stack Exchange and Twitter
  • 10 minutes a day reading a blog post or article from well known UX news sites
  • 10 minutes a day reading a UX book


This achievement will contribute towards the first step outlined by UX Mastery’s How to Get Started in UX Design, Get Educated.