The quest for features is running roughshod over thoughtful user experience design. Efforts for their addition typically manifest themselves as carts leading horses – devices where new features are added before existing ones have proven effective or valuable. Technology is a catalyst for new possibilities, but as digital designers we must evaluate how those new possibilities can add value to a user’s experience, not detract from it.
We’ve seen companies rush to market with ideas that never gave themselves a chance – touch-based interfaces that still relied upon traditional paradigms (soft keys and mouse-like behaviors), and devices that compromised on hardware just to have something to sell.
Over years of working in the mobile space, Punchcut believes companies have an opportunity to demonstrate a better way to pursue true user interface innovation, one that engages in careful research and recognizes getting the small things right – like creating insightful defaults and motion transitions between menu states – is the only thing that matters. Inspired by this belief, we’d like to share a few mantras that will help wean you from feature addiction.
1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Just because you can incorporate a new technology feature does not always mean it is appropriate or even desirable. In spite of the advancements in technology, there are many times when restraint is in order. Sometimes the answer to true market differentiation is refining existing features, or eliminating features that go unused. Innovation can come from what’s already there. Design doesn’t have to be additive. It just has to be smart.
2. First ask why, then ask what.
Too many times we have seen technology companies reverse engineer their user interfaces, trying to identify the solution before they identify the problem. Or worse yet, the opportunity. The question we urge our clients to ask first is WHY. Why would a user want this? Only then should you ask WHAT. What value would it provide? And third, HOW. How will this impact the experience? If you cannot answer these questions effectively, then the overall feature potential is in question.
3. Get the details right or don't do it at all.
New device features should feel like natural extensions, not after-thoughts. Taking the time to conduct research, define the most common use cases, develop distributed interaction models, design high-definition visual elements, and utilize dynamic motion is fundamental to creating seamless design.
4. One size does not fit all.
People are neither static nor singularly focused. They are multi-dimensional, and their devices should reflect that. For too long the industry has focused on one-size-fits-all devices or segmented device types (i.e. music phones for music aficionados; smartphones for business people). Today’s innovations demand users have the freedom to select features and functions and customize their experience.
These four mantras are not rocket science. They are very logical, which is exactly why they work. Don’t fall for feature fever. Punchcut encourages our partners and the industry in general to resist product marketing that sells based on features and not value. When teams are blinded by the excitement of the “new,” when bigger is assumed to be better, we stand as the voice of reason to rein in innovation to what is really important: experiences that are valuable and intuitive. And better. Better quality visual design, more intuitive interactions and richer motion cues, all working seamlessly to deliver the best experience.