As product development continues to shift more and more towards business-centered rather than human-centered design, removing “friction” becomes one of the key aspects of product optimization.
Reducing “friction” pretty much means minimizing the cognitive load and number of steps a user has to take to reach the goal. However when you look at that goal from a business perspective it’s usually a conversion (most often some sort of transaction) and to get their users to that goal as quick as possible businesses are inclined to remove all friction blindly. The problem with that is that not all friction is bad for the user.
Let me quote AirBnb’s design manager Steve Selzer - “...when we remove friction, we also remove moments for serendipity and self-reflection. At scale, this can erode our social values and increase our tendency toward intolerance and impatience, leaving us with a lack of resilience and an inability to navigate change.”
Also one of the best examples of increasing instead of reducing friction comes from the same AirBnb - one of the last steps before you book a place is to send a personal message to the owner of that place. From a business perspective it’s absolutely not necessary and creates friction in the most important user flow of the product. But would they have decided to remove it or put it somewhere else they wouldn’t have built such a trusting community and wouldn’t have such a successful product.
So be thoughtful with reducing friction and keep in mind that if used correctly and with the right intent it can actually benefit both your users and your business.
“Become smarter in 15 minutes a day”, “Learn a new language in a week” or “Get fit in 14 days” - some of the value propositions of today’s apps.
In product design & development we strive to build experiences that are easy to use and simple to understand, and that’s great! But is there a danger in oversimplifying? What kind of lasting effect can simplified, “everything’s under the hood” type of experiences have?
A designer & writer Ralph Ammer explores these questions in his nicely illustrated piece bellow
Why are original Post-its yellow? Is it for visual ergonomics, usability maybe? Is it part of 3M brand style? There must be well thought through reasons behind it, right?
Well, here’s what Dr Geoff Nicholson (now retired VP of research & development at 3M) said when asked to explain his and his team decision - “We had some scrap yellow paper!”
That’s it. It is an accident, a coincidence that post-its came out yellow. It wasn’t designed, it just happened and people at 3M rolled with it.
Read a full interview with Dr Geoff Nicholson and see how nonchalant and funny he is about one of the most iconic accidents in product development.
Google experiments lab delivered something truly helpful and life-changing. A Look to Speak app is seemingly a very simple concept with two columns of programmable words on left and on the right side of a mobile screen. It’s user then can simply look left or right to select a column of words which then gets split up into left and right again, allowing user to narrow it down to one word and eventually combine words into sentences that get voiced out through a mobile device.
I remember when my late grandad got struck with a stroke and spent more then two years trying to recover his speech and motorics. Communicating during that time was especially hard and more then anything it took the biggest toll on him and on the family. Should an app like this existed back then I’m sure it’d have made it so much easier for all of us.
The brilliance of this app lies in its affordance and accessibility. Pretty much anyone anywhere can have it set up regardless of social or economic situation and that provides a so needed option for people living with impairments who might not afford or have access to expensive eye-to-speech devices.
This is the sort of design and product development that inspires me the most. A simple, accessible solution with a possibility of actual life-changing impact. Big ups Google Labs!