Max Masure
Nov 4, 2015 · 4 min read

When you design a product, desktop or mobile, you try to design the screens of what the user will do. But now and with smaller screens specifically, you need to design for when the user will do the action.

Think of what your user needs to be focus on, at this exact moment

The best example I can give you is this short extract from the movie Oblivion. Gmunk did an awesome job by designing the Graphic User Interface of the movie — just for your own information, all the interfaces were real touch interfaces on the movie. The actors were able to actually play with the devices and screens.

Oblivion Adaptive Hierarchy: display the Low Fuel alert when needed, instead of the speed

So in this example, the motorbike dashboard is displaying the “Low Fuel” alert instead of the Miles Per Hour. When your car is low in fuel, you need to see the information right now. You don’t care about the speed you are going right now: the hierarchy is changed compared to when you just drive and there is nothing special about the fuel tank. This example shows us how a smaller screen forces use to be more efficient. As designers, we need to think of the context of when the user will see the content. If you show everything at all time, you lose the story you can tell and you lose the focus of your user.

Make the best use of the real estate

This is specially true with the pre-order opening for the iWatch today. Designing for the iWatch will make us think more about the real estate we can play with and how to display the right information at the right time.

A very interesting example of Adaptive Hierarchy where you display the content when the user really needs it, is the work from the team at UsTwo (the guys who signed the tremendous game “Monument Valley”).

Adaptive Hierarchy from UsTwo studio

They worked on a very deep research about car dashboards and they built some prototypes of how more innovative car dashboard could be. They implemented the Adaptive Hierarchy where you don’t see the same screen when you enter the car, when you drive or when you stop. Take your time and read this inspiring article they wrote.

Tell a story, a user journey

My best worst example of a user journey is the Washington DC train ticket machine.

Worst train ticket machine ever. #IfeelSickOnMyUX

What I see here it’s the specifications of the product they wanted to build. All the features are shown, all together at the same time; which is a good step on the process of building a product. But not at all for a final delivered product! This was my Instagram description: “Worst train ticket machine ever. #IfeelSickOnMyUX”. I really felt sick in my stomach.

I even refused to use it and I had to make the lady go out of her desk to buy me my ticket, and I gave her my cash. I don’t know if it’s just me being too much sensitive because of my expertise, but I literally refused to touch the machine.

I was overwhelmed: too much information at a time. My brain was stuck. I was not able to make one simple decision — aka buying a train ticket.

In order to be efficient, the user needs to be told a story. He can’t focus on everything at the same time: trying to think of where he needs to go, while thinking of the payment process and where the tickets will appear — it’s just too much. I will work one day on a better version of this machine, just so I will be able to sleep better at night. If I manage to look one more time at this machine without being sick… Argh.

So next time you’ll design for the Apple Watch, think “when” and not “what”. Empathy, being able to be in the shoes (or wrist) of your users and understand their user journey will be crucial to build great products.

This article was included on the issue#5 my curated publication “Design for startups“.

Don’t forget to sign up for it to receive new tips and tricks on your inbox.

Design for startups” is my curated publication that helps you design when you are not a designer. Tips, tools and interesting articles for startups.

Originally published at

Design for startups

Curated publication that helps you design when you are not a designer. Tips and tools for startups. Subscribe now and never miss an issue.

Max Masure

Written by

Design Thinking Facilitator. Co-founder Argo Collective, Gender Inclusion Strategist.

Design for startups

Curated publication that helps you design when you are not a designer. Tips and tools for startups. Subscribe now and never miss an issue.

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