Thoughts on personalization 16:53 on Friday

A post on the S60 User Experience blog fuelled me to think about personalization. No answers here, just questions.

  • Is personalization a need, or merely a “want”?
  • Does changing a theme answer our wishes for personalization or is it just a gimmick that satisfies for a minute or a day?
  • Can something that satisfies for a day be called a “need” that should be addressed in an UI?
  • Is there enough value in this “thin personalization” (my personal interpretation) to justify the added complexity of use?

2 Responses to “Thoughts on personalization”


  1. Maija Says:

    Hi, I’m the one that wrote the entry to the UE blog, so I kind of feel discussing these questions :)

    1 -> I think personalization in a wide sense is a need, not just want. There are loads of theories on e.g. User Experience, where it’s stated that social and ideological values affect our product preference: we want to choose products (and later modify them) that reflect who we are or more often who we wnt to be. I see this being more a need than a want.

    2 + 3-> I think gerenally people should feel that they can make modifications to an UI that they are using in their personal use. I think the long-lasting satisfaction feeling comes from the fact that you can change the UI not from single changes.

    4-> This is a relevant question. Downloading and applying (not to mention making of) a theme might be too laborous in comparison to what the user gets out of it. But I’d say that it’s quite simple to buy a theme and apply it, even for a novice user.

    This is what I’ve been thinking (and reading), what do you think?

  2. Niko Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, I had to dwell on this for a few days before replying. ;) I’m aware you are far more read on this subject, so I’ll look at it from the “barrel” I live in and using my view of UX.

    1 — I can see how we are attracted to certain kinds of products, and how the selection of products is a personal preference. Perhaps here in Finland we don’t have such culture of modifying the products as in some other countries (excellently documented by Nokia’s own Jan Chipchase), and therefore I find it hard to see personalization as a true need. But I also think there are many products we use daily which we accept as they are, never even thinking about modifying them to better suit our preferences. We wear clothes that aren’t just right, we drive the cars we can afford without an explicit need to pimp them to be special. It’s not that we couldn’t cut off the sleeves from that shirt, we just get by with a lot of things that don’t necessarily reflect our preferences. (I understand my examples are not the best, as these modifications involve risk, unlike downloading a new theme to your mobile). Still I argue that personalizing a device with colors is something you might want to do just because you can, not because you would actually need to do that to get by with it. Anyhow, wants and needs — I believe those can be highly subjective terms…

    2-4 — How about long lasting fear of breaking the device because it’s possible to do things the user doesn’t understand? ;) But I agree on buying an applying a theme, it is easy.