UXmas 2018: Santa’s Dashboard Clock

A holiday-themed UX case story published in the 2018 UXmas advent calendar

UXmas, a joint effort between UX Mastery and Thirst Studios, is a user experience-themed advent calendar that they publish as “a way of giving back to the UX community during the festive season”. I’ve followed the calendar for several years and when they published an open call for submissions for the 2018 calendar on Twitter and I jumped at the opportunity. This was my initial proposal:

I recently wrote a case study about the user experience of time in the product I run that I think could be transformed into a fun holiday-themed post. The purpose of the case study is to talk about the danger of not anticipating timezones in your information architecture and how that can have serious consequences for the user experience. A holiday-themed version of this theme might be looking the consequences of timezones for Santa or UPS (some time-sensitive service) and how designing for time can improve experiences for everyone (like making sure gifts arrive on time).

The proposal was accepted and I got to work immediately repurposing the original case study. The result is a new case study, written as the elves of the North Pole User Experience Division, telling the story of re-evaluating the UX of the dashboard clock on Santa’s sleigh. It includes all of the key takeaways from the original case study but frames them in Santa’s user story – having to accurately know when to deliver gifts and accommodating localized time settings.

One of my favorite bits of creativity is framing the absurdities of the Santa mythology (particularly surveillance and distance coverage) as engineering challenges:

Design Challenge #1: Even though North Pole Intelligence is famous for innovating technologies of the surveillance state (how else could they know definitively who’s naughty or nice), they currently do not have sleigh-based technology capable of determining whether the inhabitants of a dwelling are conscious or not. It remains up to Santa to make a best guess based on conditions on the ground (and, presumably, helpful user interfaces).

Design Challenge #2: Even though the sleigh’s Holtzman engines cause it to operate outside the space-time continuum (how else can it possibly cover so much distance without employing some kind of wormhole or space-folding technologies to transit between points), Santa must operate in real time while performing gift deliveries.

I wrote the original draft in Google Docs and had a number of friends lend editorial help, including Bill Hart-Davidson, who provided some punch up. I created the UI mockups using Sketch and Robin Cave of UX Mastery provided the amazing artwork. The final piece was published on at midnight UTC on December 5, 2018.

See the completed piece on the 2018 UXMas site 🎅

Screenshot from the advent calendar on December 5, when this piece became available.
Screenshot from the final publication, including a UX group mission patch!