Thoughts on product design + user experience

How chopsticks came to symbolize user experience design

Written by bbb on May 19, 2007

Several years ago, I discovered East Japanese Restaurant in Milford, Connecticut while visiting a nearby client. This discovery had quite an unexpected impact on me: not only was I shocked to find that East served the best sushi I had ever tasted (and it still holds that distinction today), it also served as a textbook example of the payoff that occurs when you sweat the details of the user experience.

I was travelling alone that day. I pulled up a chair at the sushi bar and received a friendly greeting from Jason, the sushi chef. He immediately began to investigate my preferences. “Ah, so you like tuna? Chu-toro, from the belly? Very good. How about unagi, barbecued eel? Not tonight? Something more subtle. OK, I see. Here, try this.” He slipped me a plate of ridiculously fresh hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi beautifully garnished and accompanied by a fruity ponzu sauce. Aaaah, heavenly.

I spent a blissful two hours working my way through the best sushi I’d ever had. Who’d have figured that Milford, CT, of all places, would have sushi that rivals the best of New York city or San Francisco? I was blown away. I was equally blown away, though, by how Jason greeted by name almost every customer who walked through the door that evening. Hmm, this place was worth noting.

Six weeks later, I returned with Glen Drummond, a colleague of mine from Quarry who is equally fanatic about sushi. As we approached the sushi bar, I heard a familiar voice: “Ahh, Bob-san, welcome back! And you’ve brought a friend! Please, sit down. I have something special for you tonight.”

Incredible. I had visited only once before, yet Jason remembered not just my name — he remembered which selections I’d most enjoyed on my previous visit. And wow, did he deliver that night. Glen and I agreed it was not just the best sushi we’d ever tasted, it was in fact the best customer experience we’d encountered anywhere.

So: domo arigato gozaimasu, Jason-san! You’ve set the benchmark. Now, when I’m designing a website, software application, or other product I ask myself: what would it take for this product to make people feel as I did on those two nights in Milford? Is that even possible?

Perhaps not. But I’m trying.

Lessons learned:

  • A great product keeps customers coming back for more.
  • A great experience makes them bring friends

Sushi and chopsticks
— This terrific photo by _KoAn_ via Flickr. —

Posted Under: Design, User Experience


About bbb

6 responses to “How chopsticks came to symbolize user experience design”

  1. Prof. Amit Ray says:

    It is indeed an interesting experience that leads to creative prblem solving. It is a worth sudying the ‘user-experience’ isues in design.

  2. shailaja says:

    Yes, this experience is worth studying. i think we have to learn from the past and make it work in the future

  3. Jeff says:

    You don’t still frequent East, do you? I am trying to find out which restaurant Jason now works for. I was terribly upset when i went in for lunch today that he no longer works there.

  4. @Jeff: Gasp! Jason’s left East? If you do manage to track him down, please post a comment here. Sadly, it’s been years since I’ve eaten at East; the opportunity arose only because I had a client in the area and traveled there a few times. FYI that Jason’s meals still hold the record of “best sushi I’ve ever experienced”, all these years later.

  5. мepтвeц says:

    Хороший блог 🙂 Люблю почитывать каждый вечер (ну и в другое время тоже :)).

  6. Точно. Фактов всегда достаточно – не хватает фантазии. Желаю автору ее поболее 🙂