Two-Faced: Flashy versus No Doubt Interface


Research says it takes only one-tenth of a second for someone to make a first impression. It’s evident, then, that all people form an opinion what we see immediately. But before evaluating the visual aspect, we should first know how design works or what design should focus on — not just how it looks but also how it performs across all senses, including usability and experience.

Clients — companies, brands, etc. — may seek “flashy” elements in the design process and its output. They want to be impressed by the visuals, and how detailed, complex and well-designed they are. However, the designer must champion that the proper focus must be on “no doubt” elements.

An example for a “flashy” design.
Small buttons with a non mandatory use of flipping effect.

A great design shows its content and communicates its key message with minimal effort expended by the viewer, and without drawing attention to how clever it is. That’s what we call the process of “no doubt”. There should be “no doubt” that your product and UI is familiar to your users’ previous experiences. It may not make a breakthrough in design world, but it is what all the users really want, and thus will drive the biggest impact for your clients. For instance, when Loren Brichter introduced the “pull to refresh” feature on the iPhone app Tweetie, it has a strong “no doubt” sense because it was an extended function of an already commonly used gesture.

An example for a successful “no doubt” design.

Clients striving for “flashy” have the desire of attaining instant recognition. But most likely, this recognition will be only temporary — and tremendous time and resource investment will have gone to waste for a fleeting image. Clients seeking “no doubt” have the desire of persistency and memorability. They want their product to be familiar and easy to recognize and use.

Designers going for “flashy” try to innovate, but also run the risk of developing a product experience that can be complicated, bizarre and unfamiliar. Designers going for “no doubt” want the design and experience solutions to feel like they always existed, like there could be no other options.

Do not make your users think or discover new interactions while you are focused on aesthetic pleasure. Forget “flashy”. Instead, go for achieving simplicity, clarity and usability. Want “no doubt”. Your users will love the result, even — or especially — if they cannot explain why.

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This originally appeared as a blog post in Monitise Insights

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