User Experience ≠ Ease of Use

Is a user experience necessarily synonymous with easy of use? Usually we say ‘ease of use’ is the path of less resistance. However, sometimes the appropriate user experience is not designed to be that easy after all.

We have learnt that our brains respond better to difficulty than we imagine, and sometimes the route to fulfilment is the path of more resistance. Anyone that’s written a successful creative brief will recognise that obstacles end up boosting creativity.

Desirable difficulties — designing a better education

‘In schools, teachers and pupils alike often assume that if a concept has been easy to learn, then the lesson has been successful. But numerous studies have found that when classroom material is harder to absorb, pupils retain more of it over the long term, and understand it on a deeper level.’ Ian Leslie — The uses of difficulty (Intelligent Life, Nov/Dec 2012 edition).

Kahoot! is founded on the idea that game-based learning can, if incorporated correctly, enhance learning significantly. A key concept illustrating this is desirable difficulties — if you are an avid gamer you will know this, it's what makes games addictive.

Robert Bjork, of the University of California, coined the phrase desirable difficulties to describe the counter intuitive notion that learning should be made harder by, for instance, spacing sessions further apart so that students have to make more effort to recall what they learnt last time.

Robert Bjork’s concept of desirable difficulties suggests that introducing certain difficulties into the learning process can greatly improve long-term retention of the learned material.

Kahoot! is extremely easy to adopt considering the complexity of live group dynamics, but once in the game there are some obstacles we have implemented on purpose. We believe that by combining these obstacles with engaging social experiences we can inspire educators & learners to adopt the basic building blocks that will enable game-based learning to succeed in education over time (in May 2016 we reached 30m MAU, so we have some indicators of success).

Psychologists at Princeton found that students remember reading material better when it is printed in an ugly font.

Scientists from the University of Amsterdam recently carried out a series of experiments to investigate how obstacles affect our thought processes. They aslo discovered that if you are faced with obstacles you displayed greater cognitive agility; you are more likely to take leaps of association and make unusual connections.

They also uncovered the effect of unexpected obstacles will increase your perceptual scope — you will ‘take a mental step back to see the bigger picture’… a core behaviour needed to become a good learner and positive contributor to any group activity, society and to be in kahoots for better education.

Heart, Hand, Mind is a holistic process we follow when designing & developing Kahoot!.

If this sparked your interst I recommend reading the article Desirable Difficulties in the Classroom, when learning, how matters as much as what, by Adi Jaffe Ph.D.

Note: In my previous venture We Are Human (co-founded with Jamie Brooker) I wrote the original version of this post OCT. 22 2012, for us it was essential not just to look at the immediate functional needs of the user, but also analyse the desired outcome, now and long term.