Some of the best experiences are learned.

  •   Joshua Buckwalter

By Joshua Buckwalter

Designing experiences and interfaces to be intuited by their users is overvalued.

Riding a bike is one of the simplest and most valuable experiences someone can have in their life. It’s something that provides freedom, mobility, exercise and adventure. Learning to ride is a challenge; however, the reward for overcoming that challenge is exponentially greater. The mechanics and balance to pull off the feat may allude a beginner, requiring coaching and practice. Though once it’s mastered you never forget. This is worth keeping in mind when approaching interface design.

How often have you heard this:

“Is this too hard to find? It should be easy to use."

There is an important difference between easy and obvious. Both are valuable traits; however, emphasis can only exists where other elements are static. Commonly found functions should be easy to locate and operate. Less commonly used functions can be a little more obscure; however, consider how the learning curve for a task relates to the value behind the interaction.

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Prioritizing operations and taking care to find the appropriate balance of visibility, difficulty and reward for each is a design consideration that has a deep impact on a users experience. Don’t be afraid to ask a user to learn an interaction that isn’t obvious, as long as it’s simple and yields positive benefits.

A perfect example of this is Rdio’s tap and hold interaction. Accessing an album or playing a song is a simple tap away. Adding that same album or song to a playlist or collection requires a little more work. Tap to hold isn’t an intuitive step, but it is simple. Learning it unlocks deeper functionality, and it soon becomes familiar.

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The path to familiarity is personal and can form positive bonds between your user and an app. Make your application like riding a bike.


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