How to Talk About Design
I watched a talk yesterday by Ryan Singer, design guru of 37 Signals. The talk has a bunch of great points, but one struck me in particular – his description of how to qualify effective design.
Effective design is a lack of friction.
I love this definition because it fully captures the iterative process of design and the trade offs that come with iteration. The best part is that it doesn’t rely on “designery” language.
It’s not just a great definition, but it’s a great way to tackle design problems and opportunities.
Designs can always be better if there is friction in the system. That’s why iteration is necessary. Finding the best design is often a process of designing then using then designing then using. Using your product allows you to find friction. Design allows you to eliminate it. It’s tricky because eliminating friction in one area can introduce it in another. That is what makes design so fun and challenging.
If you’re able to kill friction without introducing it elsewhere in the system then you’re on your way to a great design.
“Friction” is just so much more tangible and human than terms like simplicity, aesthetic, design, feel, or ux. Simplicity and aesthetic result from an absence of friction – I don’t think they drive effective design in and of themselves.
Our understanding of friction as a word and a feeling is basic, it’s human. Your mom can feel friction just like a designer can feel friction.
We have frequent field tests at Hollerback where the entire team goes out and uses the app for a few hours. When we come back, we discuss bugs and potential UX improvements. The UX part of the discussion was good, but hard to nail down exactly what UX was.
From now on we’ll be using points of friction as the focus of our discussion. I look forward to seeing if it pushes our design and product in a more effective, delightful direction.