Karapanos et al. (2009) User Experience Over Time: An Initial Framework

The paper presents a study aimed at exploring the role of time when experiencing a product. The authors followed six persons during a five week study, before and after the purchase of an iPhone. The iPhone was selected because of its success in both initial and prolonged use. Participants described their expectations in detail before the purchase and documented their usage and experiences in detail for the first four weeks of use.

The natural assumption was that when the familiarity with a product increases, there is less frustration with use but also less excitement. The relative importance of different qualities was also expected to change after prolonged use. The authors were interested in studying whether the initial excitement factors continue to motivate use in the long term. The study indicated that qualities that make initial experiences satisfying do not necessarily motivate prolonged use. Time was shown to be a significant factor altering the way individuals experience and evaluate a product.

The authors identified three distinct phases in product adoption: orientation, incorporation and identification. In addition, the authors stressed the importance of anticipation of use. Anticipation refers to expectations that a user has prior to use. Expectations of experience are typically involved in all interactions, but the expectations also change over time, thus affecting each new use episode differently.

Orientation phase:

Initial experiences are very much concerned with ease-of-use and stimulation. Feelings of excitement can come from novel features and frustration is often the result of encountering learnability problems. These experiences decreased dramatically after one week of use. Learnability flaws disappeared after suitable settings were found. Initial ease of interaction did not continue to impress.

Incorporation phase:

Usefulness of product and different features were the key factors in experiences. Users reflected on how the product became meaningful in their daily lives, e.g., with fast access to information and alleviating boredom. Long-term usability factors and usefulness became more important than initial learnability.

Identification phase:

Overall ease-of-use and identification with product resulted in emotional attachment with the product. The product was incorporated as a part of daily life, involved in social interactions and communicating self-identity. Daily rituals became very important and the product facilitated a sense of community with other users.

The transition between phases was conceptualized to be the result of three main forces that affect user experience over time: increasing familiarity, functional dependency, and social and emotional attachment.

Familiarity: As a result from increased familiarity and skills with the product, experienced learnability problems and excitement of novel features decreased.

Functional dependency: When the product was incorporated into the daily life, the usefulness and usability of the product were the sources of positive experiences. Many features were found to save time and make everyday life easier.

Social and emotional attachment: The phone becomes a personal object that enables the users to express themselves. Attachment is especially important with a product that helps connect one to close friends, allows personalization and is always nearby. The status element of communicating self-identity and facilitating connecting with other users through shared values and interests was also very significant.

Contrary to the common belief that iPhone’s success is largely due to its aesthetics and novel interaction style, these aspects were not so significant in providing positive experiences in prolonged use. In prolonged experiences, usefulness increased its meaning over ease-of-use. This urges for a shift of emphasis from efficient use to more meaningful incorporation. Problems in the beginning were induced by unexpected product behavior, but later problems often resulted from unanticipated use.

Actual experiences were found to be more influential than expectations, and expectations evolved during actual experiences. Exceeded expectations increased satisfaction, but disconfirmed expectations were justified by adapting expectations to actual experiences.

The paper’s contribution seems valuable in terms of considering the temporality of user experience. The framework proposes an interesting concept that needs to be considered when designing and evaluating experiences with products over time. Especially the recognition of various factors affecting experience in different phases of adoption helps in considering the relative importance of different features. Further studies could help in creating valuable guidelines for user experience design.