I was recently re-inspired by Hick’s Law which, in short, concludes that the more choices you offer a user, the more distracted the user will become. I’ve been thinking about this for several days now and I’ve found the inverse of Hicks law to be true as well.
The less you distract a user the better the chance they’ll navigate their way through your process / story.
What does that mean you ask?
The next time you visit a shopping mall or an airport take the handicap entrance.
Often, you’ll find the handicap entrance has a big button about 20ft in front of the door and there is only one button to push and maybe a few signs with clearly labeled directions on pushing that one button. Seems so simple you say, the simplicity is because of the rare circumstance of having no competition. However in reality you’ll see this door is used over and over and over again with no questions. After obsessing over this rare form of entry with almost 0% bounce rate I’ve found some insight, complexities should be made simple or eliminated at all cost.
Now obviously that door is a slimmed down version of whatever you may be building but there is something to be said as people go in and out of those doors daily, with no hesitation.
Imagine for me, that same door with 5 different buttons to choose from each one opening the door 5 different ways. One way for the really short folks, one way for the really skinny folks, one way for the really ugly folks… and one way for the better looking folks… You get my point.
Imagine the distraction and disruption one would encounter when trying to get through something like that.
Imagine the complexity of designing that…
What if I’m tall and I push the short button? Do I have to push it again to close it? Does it close automatically? How will we label the tall button for the tall people and the short button for the short people.
My intention here is not to state the obvious but to inspire you to overhaul your priorities. If you want someone to focus on something then don’t put something different right in front of them or in some cases even next to them.
Simplification = Less Distraction.
Just because we can build it doesn’t mean we should.
Now imagine having to build that same handicap entrance along with every possible feature behind every possible button that could possibly exist. That is not how you would approach something in the real world and the same is (or should be) true in software. The value in great design is not found in dreaming up the million things an application can do, it’s found in obsessing over the one button you’re going to use, where you’re going to place it, what signs will point to that button, who is going to be pushing that button, why will they be pushing that button, how will that button be labeled and how will pushing that button meet your business goals.
A well thought out user experience starts with the first engagement.
One should be very thoughtful of these points while designing anything.
Be clear of why you want the users attention.
Give them a clear button to push that is in line with how you got the users attention.
Give them a clear story that the user can be inspired by as the move through your process.
After using the handicap door analogy you may still think the door is not a fair example. Just build a door big enough for them all, you say. This speaks right to my next point.
Who do you want coming through your door? Be specific! Then build a door just for them. A door that appeals only to them. In todays world we have the power to find masses of “unique” people which allows us to rethink how we design.
You should carefully consider who you are targeting in your design.
Are we after the tall folks? Let’s put the handle at 6 1/2 ft tall. Let’s make it exclusive (You must be over ___ ft tall to enter this way). Let’s reward the tall just for being tall.
The secret is to find one crazy, obsessive user and reproduce them over and over again.
In the last 5 years or so the digital marketing space has added the ability to tap into what I like to call the “strange masses,” purchase the perfect user and reproduce them.
So here are your clear instructions… First, convince yourself that a stripped down, focused and simple experience is better. Second focus on the story you tell your users in the process.