What UX Designers Can Learn from Watching a Heron

As UX Designers we face constant challenges. As we wade through the lake of Poor Product Choices we must stalk our users/fish carefully. The path to UX Success demands that we strike with sharp-beaked efficiency – just like a heron I saw today.



So I’m on my honeymoon – doesn't matter where; okay it’s Tokyo – and we’re walking round a lake. ”Do you see that heron?”, my wife asks. And yes, I see it, but it’s a long way off, so let’s go round the other side to see it better. Except when we get there, I realise it's a fake: one of those joke herons they put up to scare other birds away, although do herons even eat birds? My wife says look, its leg is moving. She’s right. But the heron still looks wooden. Animatronic? Japan does enjoy that sort of thing. No, no, the heron is real. Beak angled toward the water, neck arcing logarithmically, centre of gravity perhaps a foot behind it. A study in potential energy. This bird is about to go apeshit on a fish. I hope for keratinous knives spearing wet scales, a mouth gasping open. So we wait, in obligation to witness nature at its most resplendent and brutal.

A minute passes. The bird remains poised on its stupid legs, taunting gravity. Any moment. Any. Moment. The cliché: the minute you turn away, it’ll strike. It doesn't matter, since we’re going to win this one. Not going to be beaten by a fucking bird. Another minute. Two. Three.

The sun is bright today and my retinas are scarred with a heron imprint. Tonight I will dream of olive-green bezier necks, beaks plucking at my eyes. And it strikes me that this is like UX, somehow.

No phenomena exist except me and the heron. I find out later that Shinjuku is burning, helicopters scrambled, sirens wailing, but we exist on new wavelengths. My telekinetic beams versus its magnificent stasis. But… I lose, I lose. I move on. Suns will rise and set, dynasties will fall before this heron unfurls a wing. Later, as I lie in bed and write this glimmering thinkpiece, I deduce that the heron had, be it through genius or plain limbic stimulus-response, redefined the time axis. And thus I reach UX enlightenment.

Cennydd Bowles