The UX of Thanksgiving

designing the seating chart and platter flow at the thanksgiving table is essentially designing the thanksgiving user experience


There are mountains of mashed potatoes, heaps of stuffing, and, of course, pumpkin pie. But there are also things that can make the holiday not so enjoyable. These things include, but are not limited to: in laws, the Lions losing another football game, and poor planning. Planning the Thanksgiving experience goes far beyond the food.

  • Where do the left-handed people sit?
  • Where are the people from out of town going to stay?
  • Who gets subjected to dishing out the food that’s too heavy to pass?
  • Which way is the food to be passed? Left or right?
  • What time should people arrive, and when can you kick them out?
  • Should you take into account the people who have to leave early to stand in line for Black Friday shopping?
  • What do you do for the vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, atkins diet (insert other diet fad here) people?_

When all of these things are taken into account, the holiday experience is delightful. When some or all are unconsidered, the experience becomes mediocre, regardless of how wonderful the food is.


When you ignore the structure of the experience and focus purely on the way it looks, you set users up for a less-than-stellar experience. The way plates of food are passed is much like the flow of the experience, and people quickly abandon an experience that’s not well-defined and simple. You must take time to understand all of the necessary user groups, both at Thanksgiving dinner and when considering UX. Put together, these things define how wonderful (or not!) the encounter is for the user.

Here’s to hoping your Thanksgiving experience, as well as your users’ experiences, are magical!