All I Want For Christmas is UX

If any holiday is all about a shared user experience, it’s Christmas. Birthdays are mostly about someone else’s experience, and most cultural festivals and traditions tend to be smaller compared to the sheer number of people and places that get “Christmassy” every year. But that means the Christmas experience blends a huge variety of traditions and influences… which makes Christmas an ever changing process that makes it truly u-x-nique.

Every family has their own traditions at this time of the year. Rigid, entrenched, multi-generational traditions. There is a certain time of day when you all have to eat together. A time for presents to be opened. A time to listen to a speech. A time for singing. A designated hour or two for the older attendees to catch a nap on the sofa and the younger attendees to play with their new toys.

There is specific food that you have to eat – a roast goose, Kung-Po shrimp, or granny’s special crunchy potatoes. Specific clothes that you have to wear – your fanciest clothes, the itchy wool sweaters that your aunt spent all of Fall knitting or the special lounge pants with the elastic waist.

Presents on Christmas morning

Traditions are the processes of Christmas. The moving parts of the machinery of the event. Without them it is just another day, but if the wrong traditions are repeated over and over forever, they can make lead to a miserable experience.

What many people don’t realize is that the traditions that they grew up with are not the only way to have a holiday. What seems like the natural order to their family is confusing and wrong to their next-door neighbour. As adults, we begin to form our own family units, we enter into relationships, acquire children and eventually start hosting the festivities for ourselves. That is when these old traditions can turn into sources of conflict. Every partner in the relationship brings along their own traditions, which they are certain are the only right way to do things, and often these traditions are mutually exclusive.

These traditions are akin to the legacy systems that large organizations have to contend with. Every merger or acquisition brings new processes into the organizational family, and the people that come along for the ride probably feel just as strongly about their old processes as their new family feels about their own.

In most cases, what you end up with is a blending of traditions, so that both sides feel like their cultural contribution is valued. In less balanced relationships, or ones where traditions were less thoroughly entrenched on one side, you might find that one person gets their way and you all have to eat turkey despite it tasting like warm sawdust. Neither side will feel like they have gotten things right and their Christmas experience will be poorer, as they plod along with their new mish-mash of traditions until they start to feel like it is normal.

Opening presents at the dinner table

The processes of an organization are endlessly repeating patterns that all the users, both customers and staff, have to navigate every day, and many of them were created long before the current crop of customers and staff ever interacted with the organization for the first time. The purpose of many of these processes may have been lost, or altered by changes to the organization and the world.

Ultimately, the best holiday traditions are the ones that you have created for yourself. The leftovers smorgasbord to use up the last of that damned turkey. The one present that you quietly exchange on the night before the big event, when the kids are asleep. They can be tiny things, or they can be huge, but they are yours. They are designed just for you, to suit what you love and what you need.

So whatever you’re doing this year, blending old traditions into something new, trying a new recipe you picked up from a buddy or avoiding the whole thing and heading to a yoga retreat (a growing Christmas trend apparently)… Happy UX-mas!

Team Co-ordinator

Sutherland Labs
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