A Lesson In Ease of Use

Easy usually stands somewhere in the middle of the hierarchy of users’ needs— in between “functions as expected” and “brings delight worth sharing”. At this relatively safe position, the product’s intuitiveness can be played around with and designers have been putting their creativity in new interaction and content models quite a bit lately. Seriously, a lot can happen between “too complex” and “too ordinary”.

The main reason for this being that ease of use has no firm rules, it’s an ever-going process. New interface patterns are being introduced every moment, users learn and turn them in a set of handy familiar gestures — scroll to reveal hidden navigation, the blue underlined text is clickable, search for three stacked horizontal lines (or something similar) around the header to open the menu, etc. But why do some patterns get to live a long and popular life and others never make their way to the top rated products?

The truth is we are almost always default to the path of least resistance, unless we have a higher purpose that we are working towards . Be it a new experience, some exclusive information, or a beautiful emotion. So unless you are willing to provide the user with higher levels of UX — this delight worth sharing — don’t bother reinventing the wheel with the UI. You may trick the users once, but the poor outcomes would easily discourage them from trying to do the hard cognitive work again.

So unless you are willing to provide the user with higher levels of UX, don’t bother reinventing the wheel with the UI.

When Bloomberg launched their redesigned website earlier this year, Harrison Weber proclaimed it’s new looks as “begging for haters”. Vibrant colours, irregular grid, texture overlays and lots and lots of type fonts and sizes. All the jarring made it hard to recognise section titles from article headlines. The UI was confronting the conventional ease of use where readability and user orientation ruled. But this user discomfort was precisely crafted.

A delightful product relaxes the user, which in turn allows their mechanical processes to run smoothly, making it easier to learn how to use a new interface. The Bloomberg team knew they were delivering really deep financial data, meaningful analysis and unexpected added value to their readers. So they took the risk of playing around with ease of use by designing a distinguishable UI — one that’s worth spending time to comprehend, appreciate and enjoy.

Delightful design can be added to any product, in varying forms - engaging aesthetic, emotional or personal value, that no other company is serving. Extra personal meaning in exchange for extra user effort, seems like a fair deal to me.