As books have moved from tangible products to electronic media, many longtime readers still appreciate the value of traditional reading. Digital analyst Brian Solis tries to merge the old and new school reading experiences with his latest book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.

We've heard a lot lately that people want experiences more than they want things. Solis says it's the same for companies marketing to consumers, just as it's the same for an author trying to connect with readers. He says user experience is tightly woven into what someone gets out of a piece of content. He clearly kept that in mind when he created the book. It's an eye-catcher that mimics the size and user experience you find with an app on an iPad. As you might expect, he didn't do that just for the sake of design. He did it to make a point.

Design as an Experience

Solis partnered with a creative agency called Mekanism and worked for more than three years designing the book. He started by asking, "What could a print book be in 2015 at a time when everyone assumes something digital?" He thought through how to give customers the experiences they expect on mobile but applied those insights to paper. The book utilizes succinct sentences and its size emulates the iPad Air 2. The determination to marry today's technology with publishing made the process more complex than people might realize.

"Nothing about X was easy," Solis says. "The entire architecture of the book was meant to deliver an experience. It was also designed using the principles in the book. My inspiration was teenagers having to learn in a system rooted in legacy and unaware of the differences in how kids learn today vs. yesteryear. I wanted to explore what the textbook, in print, could be today. I didn't want to create an app. I thought the point of applying insights in UX, UI, HCD, design thinking et al., would be more fitting and challenging to show readers that they could change or create something more relevant to today's user."

Capturing Attention Spans

Noting today's shortened attention spans, Solis used text blocks that were meticulously timed to be read in only one to six minutes. A study showed that one to six minutes was the average length of time teenagers can focus on homework before reaching for their smartphones. Instead of opting for complicated paragraphs to convey concepts, Solis and Mekanism used graphics to make subjects more approachable and sharable.

From the start, Solis wanted to challenge convention when it comes to business books. While industries are abuzz with talk about user experience, Solis says he's found that few people can pinpoint exactly what a good experience is and how to design it. The challenge is to carefully study what a current experience is and try to recreate that in new ways.

"The irony isn't lost on me that this story about experiences in a digital economy is told in printed book form," Solis says.

The Book Is the Experience

The goal of any book is to get its readers to turn the page. To achieve this, they used plenty of white space and visuals. Since these design elements makes the book more readable, readers feel a greater sense of accomplishment as they quickly finish sections.

"Many people will call this a coffee table book," Solis says. "It's appreciated, but it's more than design. It's an example of challenging convention. It's a demonstration what's possible when you don't go the easy route, when you think about what's important to people and more so, grab them and they grab you back and you learn and build together."

X is a book with a design that demonstrates the concepts found inside, which focus on helping readers understand how they, too, can create a user-friendly product that will engage and enlighten customers. I certainly felt engaged myself, which shows that the book may be worth a read, even if it is an "analog" way of doing it.

Published on: Nov 23, 2015