In his 1974 classic of philosophical fiction, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig describes two kinds of quality:
1. Classic quality — based on rational analysis, decomposition into parts and their relationships, concerned with details, inner workings, and mechanics.
2. Romantic quality — understanding the overall gestalt or feel, looking at the whole rather than the parts, relating to context, emotion, and being in the moment.
Although this is a gross over-generalization, engineers and business people tend to be educated to think about classic quality and classic quality is the mental model they apply to their work. Designers and artists tend to live more in the realm of romantic quality and that is the mental model they apply to their work.
What we often refer to as the “user experience” is the intersection of classic and romantic quality. If we overweight classic quality at the expense of romantic quality, we end up with a poor user experience.
(1) As a devotee of the Job To Be Done framework, I’m not sure how to think about this. The best product is the one which enables me to get my “job” done most efficiently and pleasurably. Perhaps “classic quality” = efficiently, and “romantic quality” = pleasurably?
(2) Enabling people to get their job done efficiently is usually enough. (Think Craig’s List.) However, if you want your customers to love your product, is “romantic quality” necessary?
(3) Cf. (i) Don’t be satisfied with sales, seek love, and (ii) Is your product liked or loved? Here’s how to tell.