Designing for friction - thoughts from UX London

Steve Sezler spoke on Designing for Friction. He really framed the crossover themes at UX London for me. Initially I thought this could be quite the controversial topic. As designers we do our best to remove pain points. But to increase friction ...what? Steve provided compelling ideas on the value of retaining friction. He looked at all of your 'convenience apps' of the world—the AirBnbs, Amazons, and Deliveroos — as 'creating a culture of instant on-demand services'. But are we creating a world of too little friction by doing so?

Steve went on to talk about how removing friction can remove opportunities for meaningful connection and personal growth. He used AirBnB as an example, continually designing for a guest experience where the ease and convenience of booking is taken care of. AirBnB hypothesised the 'designing for friction’ statement —What happens when you encourage guests to contact their hosts for support? Initially thinking the hosts would feel burdened and the guests would receive lower quality support they in fact found this improved the overall level of customer satisfaction.

“Skill-building is a form of personal growth.”

This made me think back to Jane Austin's talk on developing your onion of key skills. Personal skills & people skills are at the core. They are the hardest to achieve and they are as important, if not more important, than your craft skills. As designers, if we really want to improve the lifestyle of people and improve these skills, we need to enable these opportunities through design.

Jane Austin's onion of key skills. Sketchnotes by Maggie Appleton at UX London

Erika Hall also debunked common design myths with some standout statements:

“A good user experience is good for the user”

Just because something is pleasant to use doesn’t mean it is useful! Which again plays back in to the original context of Steves talk. As designers we can streamline products & services to do everything for us hidden behind delightful micro interactions. But are we defining choices on behalf of the user by doing so? Erika went on to add

“A good experience is only as good as the action it enables”

My takeaways from this is just to be mindful of the power of design and the responsibility we have as designers. Look for these opportunities to provide more than just another interaction but a more human centred value exchange. Start to think about where we will be in the future if we stick to this friction-less environment. While ultimately these services can be useful in the short term, are they robbing us in the long term from greater experiences and memories?