There is new a client, it’s the start of a new project building a new app. You’re excited and getting ready to start the design. General UX design dictates that you start with the skeleton of your user goals, deciding what will be the purpose of the app for the users and the business. When the goals are defined, the steps can be fleshed out and the details of interaction added piece by piece. Before you know it you’ll have a high level flow of how your users will interact with this application, except maybe I forgot to get the things for dinner tonight, and then you can start creating the UI. You won’t have enough time for that so just pick something up on your way home, then get approval and start implementing.

Confused? I’d hope so.

There is a general flaw in the term user experience design which has us forgetting that our users are humans. Multifaceted, complicated and usually with more than one thing on the mind, we cannot expect our humans to pay undivided attention to applications that has them interacting in the same way all the time. We are wired for connection with humans, so keeping them truly intuned and focused on interactions will require some form of friendly relationship techniques, trust building, changing things up, being a little bit flawed and a little bit funny. In short we aim to create some human characteristics in the user experience through friction.

To explain this concept more let’s focus on decision making. Whether we are busy selecting our clothing items for the day, or making an online purchase we take a while to check certain things before the final choice. Making a decision too fast will have its consequences, so we stop and think; will it be cold? does my budget really allow for this? Should I ask my friend first? We could say that the main thing in these actions are that we have time to process and don’t simply proceed without pause. This is where friction becomes a function and not a frustration.

Friction in your experience design can be seen as the actions/steps that disrupt the smooth flow of the process. It’s been described as the opposite of intuitive and effortless, the opposite of “Don’t make me think”. If we look at friction through the lens of human interaction we can match these actions with certain kinds of hopeful responses.

Friction for actions with consequences

This is like your mother asking where you’re going and if you shouldn’t be taking a jacket with you. This makes you pause in your journey out the door to think about the next step and re-evaluate. Frustrating? Maybe. Important in the long run? Definitely.

Taking Mailchimp’s example of deleting campaigns we see that some actions with serious consequences require very specific user input to make sure the human on a mission is paying close attention.
Friction to build trust

It’s like that feeling after asking a friend if your work looks fine and they look there and back again with a quick “yeah”. Building trust means taking time to be reassuring and helpful. A interesting example of this is Facebook’s study on the experience of users running security checks and updates. Users felt that the process must not have been thorough enough and felt unsafe because it happened too fast. The solution was to add a delay in the process along with a fake progress bar to give the impression of credibility.

Then again there is the tension of your friend taking to long to say anything when looking at your work. An encouraging nod here and there helps and the same can be implemented in the user experience to ease the waiting period with something entertaining/ useful.


Friction to relieve tension

Nothing breaks tension quite like humor, here knowing your audience really comes into play. Most people know that one person that can crack a joke in the middle of high work stress etc. and the same can be done in the user experience if you know the kinds of emotions your audience is going through. Another function for humour in your experience design can be to help people engage and process important information easily, a nice example of this is from Slack in their update messages.

In an article about user interface design myths the following few stood out that the writer believed should be seen in the right perspective of “ not set in stone but guidelines”:

  1. Mobile users are always in a hurry.
  2. Simplicity is good, complexity is bad.

And last but not least – the designer and the user think the same.

In all of these cases he explores the idea that these sentiments do not necessarily ring true for the experience you are busy creating. These are easily debunked when taking human interaction into account. When building trust and making important decisions time is needed and rushing a user won’t help the cause. When complicated information has to be understood to insure the user knows what’s going on so that the appropriate next step can be taken, you simply can’t eliminate the important things for simplicity sake.

And the grand finale of myths, designers are not the same as the users. This statement rounds up every important thing about your user experience design. As the designer you all ready know how the process works and what to do next, where you placed interactions and why, your human users do not. User research and user testing is the only effective and true solution to UX problems in the long run. Knowing your audience from the beginning will help guide you into how much friction to include into your process, and what kind of human response you are hoping to gain from them.