We need to stop designing for lazy – UX Planet
We often focus on the frictionless of products, but the overall feeling of an experience is much more important.
Traditionally, designers have been taught to focus on making a certain process more frictionless. Take out the barriers to entry, focus on smoothening the rough edges of email verification, make two-factor authentication a bit easier. We map out user journeys, and try to make the transitions from one step to another flow smoothly. People are lazy, and we do not want to lose people along the pipeline, right? I surely don’t discount the value of creating frictionless experiences and workflows. But what if that is not what we should be primarily focusing on?
What if people are willing to forgive a lot more friction in their experiences than you think? What if they’re not lazy when it comes to things they care about — and actually prefer a level of challenge?
I propose that people actually will put in the effort, and they are okay with some barriers to entry — if the resulting experience creates a memorable feeling worth having. If you can design for a lasting feeling, people are willing to deal with friction in your design.
Take the design of Disney theme parks, which is far from accidental. The placement of each person, object, costume, and even the demeanor of the employees are carefully chosen to create an overall “vibe” of pure magic. As Randy Pausch observed in his famous book The Last Lecture, even wording at Disney is modeled with the goal of furthering this magical environment:
I remember they had considerations for wording. If you ask any Disney employee what time the theme park closes, they’re supposed to respond, “The park is open until 8 p.m.” The word ‘close’ is too negative.
In this way, Disney is not focusing so much on the mechanics of eliminating the need for a visitor to ask what time the park closes. Instead, they are ensuring that if a visitor does ask, a positive feeling is retained. The idea of an immersive magic persists at all costs. The details are curated not to prevent people from getting lost at the parks or prevent all questions, but to make things feel positive and magical. This leaves a lasting impression, even when we do not realize it.
Wording has been proven as instrumental in creating a certain feeling. When Google changed their booking button scheme from saying “Book Now” — which feels full and final — to “Check Availability”, engagement increased by 17%. These details are seemingly small, but they make up the way that products are perceived and experiences are had.
With the “Book Now” narrative, the feeling associated is permanent and scary. With “Check Availability,” the feeling is more exploratory and loose. Trip planning can be stressful and suffocating, so creating this feeling of a safe space for exploration is arguably more important than the mechanics involved on the screen.
The importance of cultivating a certain “vibe” is further illustrated by the humorous case of Oobah Butler, who got his fictional restaurant to #1 on TripAdvisor. He christened it The Shed, took high resolution photos of candles and colorful sauces, had his friends write some convincing reviews, and within months his fictional backyard restaurant had made it to the #1 restaurant in London. When calls began flooding in for reservations, he responded that the restaurant was simply booked.
As the restaurant’s popularity grew, Butler thought it would be fun to actually open his backyard shed and create the atmosphere of a real restaurant for one night only. He accepted reservations, cleaned up his backyard, added some music, and served $1 frozen dinners with flowers atop.
But of course, this is when you would expect the jig to be up. Everyone would figure out that these were $1 frozen dinners with flowers on top…right? Wouldn’t people wonder how this restaurant has five stars on TripAdvisor?
In reality, the situation turned out quite like the famous children’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Many highly acclaimed chefs and critics in the area were fooled, and they rated The Shed dinner highly after eating there that night. Little did they know they had eaten a meal worth $1. We as designers often tout that “content is king,” but this did not hold true in this case. No one caught on, and people raved about the wonderful food and experience.
Butler’s strategy created a certain feeling that people desire. He named his restaurant The Shed — which feels fresh and more “back to the basics.” People crave this idea of connection and simplicity during a meal, an experience that is often lost today as people eat with their smartphones more and more. Butler added candles, fresh flowers to the top of dishes, and created this atmosphere of something that was exclusive and hidden away from the public eye. He created a magical escape, just as Disney aims to do within their design.
The focus was not the food, or the content, but the feeling evoked by it. If Butler would have placed the frozen dinner in its plastic container and set it in front of people, they would have complained. Not because of the content of the food itself, but because of their ruined experience, of the broken feeling.
The biggest part is, the restaurant was not easy to get to. It was not centrally located in town, and it was always fully “booked.” But that did not stop people from making the trek, or trying their hardest to get a table at The Shed. Essentially, they were seeking out the feeling of discovering a hidden escape, and they were willing to suffer through some friction to get it. The barrier to entry may in fact have even helped to contribute to the very “exclusive” feeling the visitors were looking for.
As designers, it is important to delve into specific workflows and fix issues in processes that could be shortened and made easier. However, we also need to prioritize the bird’s eye view of what sort of feeling our product creates. If it creates this sense of magic, of discovery, people may be willing to deal with a few hiccups here and there. If we zoom out and design for a feeling, we can create delightful products. Our job is not to just design for lazy, or to simplify the complex. Our more important job is to attach an overarching feeling or emotion to what we design.