Benefits Of Using a ‘Wide Angle Lens’ In the Design Process

This is the second in a series of posts about Nature Led Design. All photos come from camping around the west coast of Australia shooting photos to create a conversation about nature led design.

Growing up in a Japanese household meant being surrounded by cameras during family gatherings. My friends have been traumatized by walls of reflective glass and a barrage of flashes at my birthday parties.

My father became a professional photographer during my childhood, guiding me in all of my camera purchases and stressing the importance of glass, the camera lens, over the body of the camera.

My first lens had a 50mm focal length and was a prime lens, meaning it does not zoom. The human eye perspective is equivalent to a 50mm focal length, leading the 50mm to be a familiar perspective to explore photography.

I upgraded cameras and lenses and for 7 years stuck with the trusty 50mm for most of my life. That is until I ended up in the Kimberley in Western Australia.

New Environments Encourage New Viewpoints

I was lucky enough to be taken to Wandjina’s Window by my mate Ben Broady in the heart of East Kimberley. Before we left on our adventures, he spoke highly of his favorite lens a 14mm prime lens and how it was the ‘Kimberley Lens’. It could contain the vastness of the environment.

As we entered the heart of Wandjina’s window my jaw dropped at the magnitude and beauty of the place. I took photos all day trying to capture what I could, but anything wider than my normal perspective was lost. This place needed the entire picture to truly appreciate the experience.

Widjina’s Window by Eric Higashino

The picture above was one of my favorites from the trip. Lenses that fall towards the more telephoto side of the spectrum, allow for greater isolation of the subject from background, bringing focus to the foreground. It gives the image clarity and emphasizes the details of the foreground.

After coming back and checking out Ben’s photos I was speechless to how the same experience with a wider lens drastically altered how it captured the whole environment within one image.

To create digital products without bringing a wide perspective to the who, what, when and why isolates the actor in the story from their environment. When dealing with the complexities of the humans we need to look at stories rich with information about the environment around them. The human at the center of it all, their perspective matters the most. What is happening around them.

Widjina’s Window by Ben Broadly

The image above revealed a multifaceted environment, rich with insight into how someone could live within. My narrow perspective could only allow a small part fo the environment within the image.

Innovate By Creating Experiences Around a Person’s Environment

In Attack of The Startup Clones: How Copycat Companies Are Changing the Tech Industry, Digital Trends explores how startups overseas are copying ideas and even whole interfaces from successful startups. These companies take an existing way a company is solving a particular problem for a person, say finding and buying products, and launch it in other countries where they lack presence.

The difference between companies that take the narrow perspective and copy the interface exactly, the user journey flow and even the colors miss opportunities to differentiate. If these companies take a wider perspective around the local customers’ area and the unique challenges they can address those challenges in such a way that larger competitors cannot be as flexible with while focusing on their existing core customers.

Take for example Jumia, an amazon clone in Africa. They took a narrow perspective in seeing how Amazon solves the problem of finding and buying products initially by copying the interfaces and user flows. This was not enough to differentiate with the local people. Taking a wider perspective they found people live in an environment where digital experiences are not trusted the same as in person experiences due to the lack of consistent positive experiences using digital services.

By hiring their own fleet of motorcycle delivery drivers, bigger than FedEx, DHL and UPS in Nigeria, they can deliver same day to people in Lagos, a place known for its weak infrastructure. This enabled people reduced the immediacy gap of their current shopping experience. To solve people’s distrust for online transactions they created a mobile fashion truck that went from university campus to university campus to enable in-person interaction end engage the early adopters of the culture.

Emma’s Gorge by Ben Broadly

When to Take a Wide Perspective in Design

One of the benefits of wide-angle photography is to capture a wide area in a single photo. It helps to capture expansive scenery or large objects in close quarters. However, wide-angle has another benefit, emphasizing perspective. When you get close to your subject, it expands nearby objects and shrinks further objects. It adds depth to your photos.

It’s wise to tackle a new product or improve an existing product with a wide perspective first. When taking into account the environment of a person using your product, their friends and their past experiences you add depth to your understanding of their environment and how your product will fit into. How will your product fit within your customer’s environment?

When to Take a Narrow Perspective in Design

After taking a wider perspective to understand the how the environment influences the person’s actions, you need a narrow perspective to focus on the individual tasks and features. This is where the rubber hits the road and focus can be put into the interface and individual user flows.

Once you release your new product created with this wider perspective, you can start measuring the success of the individual elements. Say you create a new onboarding experience when people first register you can measure the percentage of people who take an action you tried to steer them toward. Once you get data you can take a step back and look at how they are arriving to your onboarding flow and make changes, then measure the success of your changes.

It is important to make many successive small steps where you are learning what works and what doesn’t to increase the rate of validated learnings as quickly as possible.

However, to make the big leaps you need time to explore the person’s world from a wider perspective. Only when you see how everything is connected can you create the experiences that lead people to change their existing habits, methods or mind.

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I am a UX designer focused on human-centered design and nature led design. Learn more on what I have done at subtlewaves.com.


Originally published at subtlewaves.com on August 21, 2016.