Crossing Domains: Patterns of User Experience

Crossing Domains: Patterns of User Experience

By Jeff LeBlanc

Years ago, the concept of design patterns made a fundamental change to the way software engineers approached design problems. The idea, for those who are unfamiliar, is that in software development we often find ourselves     confronted with the same problems over and over, but in a different context.  For example, the need for there to be one and only one instance of a particular data object gave rise to the Singleton Pattern.

The idea of patterns grew out of Christopher Alexander’s seminal work on A Pattern Language, back in 1977 and its findings were first detailed in the realm of software in the book, Design Patterns - Elements of Reusable     Object-Oriented Software by Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides. The authors are often referred to as the Gang of Four. (1)  The obvious parallel in the world of User Experience (UX) would be the idea of user interface   (UI) patterns, where often UX designers are confronted with the same problems in different contexts.  Indeed, there are many fine references describing UI patterns, including an excellent book by Jenifer Tidwell, Designing Interfaces. (2)   What I find even more interesting is the belief that patterns of problems and their solutions can also be found across such vastly different domains as software design and even auto sales.

I recently attended The 16th Digital Dealers Conference and Expo in Atlantic City and had the pleasure of listening to a keynote speech by Seth Godin, marketing thought leader and author.  As with all of his talks, it was both educating and entertaining.  At the risk of paraphrasing, he spoke at length about how the automotive sales industry is changing and how traditional methods are becoming less successful in the new Digital Age. He also spoke of how if customers have a positive experience at a dealership then they are likely to give that dealership both repeat business and tell other people they know about their good experience.  This notion of information “sneezers” is infinitely more valuable than simply shot gunning out an email and flyers in terms of generating revenue.

What struck me about the talk was its core message, that the customer (or user) experience trumps advertising, this virtually mirrored the message from a talk I heard earlier this year by Jared Spool, a writer, researcher, speaker, educator and an expert on the subjects of usability, software, design and research.  The difference was Jared directly stated UX was the business differentiator.  In Seth’s talk, he never directly used the words ‘user experience’ at any point, but the message was the same and clearly resonated with the audience.

The concept of UX as the business differentiator is clearly gaining traction.  I’m seeing a new pattern across many industries from airlines to automakers to software and technology.  If you are interested in hearing more about this, and seeing some data to reinforce this awareness, please visit the ICSNetwork and listen to a recent webinar on the topic, First Impressions Count –The ROI of UX Design. (3)  While I will not claim to be as engaging a speaker as either Seth Godin or Jared Spool, I can say that you’ll find the content timely if you’re concerned with ROI. We introduce how investing your time and money on UX can improve both the end user experience and the company’s bottom line.  That pattern is becoming clear for all to see.


  1. Design Patterns, Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides, accessed May 9, 2014,
  2. Designing Interfaces, Jenifer Tidwell, accessed May 9, 2014, 
  3. First Impression Count – The ROI of UX Design, Jeff LeBlanc, ICSNetwork,