When people try to design magical interfaces, they’re often aspiring for the “wow” moment, but that’s the wrong focus. Designers should instead be focusing on “of course” moments, as in “of course it works like that.” Most product design should be so obvious it elicits no response.
The problem with aiming for “wow” is when you try to innovate, your design process encourages novel new interactions. But by definition, novel and innovative are often not familiar or intuitive, which can easily tip over into “hard to use.”
On the other hand, the Nest thermostat, the iPod click-wheel, iOS’s pinch-to-zoom, the Wii controller, the first Google Maps, pull-to-refresh, and many other recent design success stories have a very strong “of course!” sense to them. Think back to using those products the first time. You probably didn’t struggle with them, which is why they succeeded despite employing unfamiliar interactions.
Great design does what it is supposed to with minimal fuss, and without drawing attention to how clever it is. That’s “of course” design. It’s wickedly difficult to pull off, it doesn’t garner headlines outside the design world, but it’s all your customer really wants.
Designers going for “wow” are too often leading with their desire to be recognized for an ability to innovate. Designers going for “of course” are earnestly attempting to fade their design into the background. They want their solutions to feel like they always existed, like there could be no other option.
Forget “wow”. You can’t conjure it. Instead, work to incorporate “of course” to your product. Your users will love the result, even if they can’t put their finger on why.