7. First hypothesis: I need to build a tool to help designers to use frictions — Failed

Credit: Todd Quackenbush


From the research presented above, one can see that there are many good reason for frictionless design such as the promotion of simplicity and ease of use. However after having explored the benefits that frictions can have to an experience, we can observe that the potential of this tool is not very often touched upon by designers. One of the reasons for that being, as Dina Chaiffetz (2015) explains:

« It has a bit of a bad reputation ».

The trick is to manage to reach a balance. Friction in design is helpful when it facilitates the interaction and not when it stands in the way of it (Choudary, 2015). Thomas Wendt describes the ideal amount as an interface that would allow « both fluid interaction and active manipulation ».

When it comes to physical frictions in engineering, progress on how to apply and control them was made through trial and error and most importantly through time (Hsu, Ying and Zhao, 2014). We need to allow ourselves that same evolution in the design world.

These conclusions led me to my first hypothesis:

Building a tool that allow designers to spot frictions and analyse their productivity will help designers to use them in order to design better experiences.

Concept Development

There is already an army of tools available for designers: from design research tools, to brainstorming tools, prototyping tools and testing tools. For my contribution to the practice to be useful I chose not to add just another tool to the existing pool, but rather to identify the right existing tool, one that designers use in most of their projects and simply add a layer to it that would allow for them to use frictions in a productive way.

I organized an ideation session around this idea. Looking through the whole double diamond process and trying to figure out for example, what a friction interview would look like, or a friction brainstorm.

The intrinsic quality of friction is that it provokes emotions, no matter whether positive or negative ones. Having an available map of emotions would make it easier to spot frictions in an experience. Thus, I looked for a tool that displayed those informations in a clear way. In a way that would show the experience developing over time as well as the user’s changing feelings.

Journey maps answered all those criteria:

  • being frequently used by designers — 6 out of 7 interviewees said they use it very often
  • Displaying user’s feelings
  • Showing an experience over time

Journey maps are also known as experience maps. Coming originally from the service design field (Howard, 2014), they provide a graphic visualization of the journey the customer goes through with a product or service. It displays the major steps — touchpoints — of a user’s experience on a horizontal axis, showing the development of it over time. On the vertical axis can be displayed various number of categories and metrics like the user’s feelings or the needs he has.

Thomas Nilsson, Design Researcher, explains that he uses journey map in almost every project, not as a deliverable, but rather as a means to navigate the experience and finds it critical when it comes to communicating research results with the clients.

Example of journey map. Credit Veryday 2015

I then set out to build an « add-on » to journey maps. A tool that would easily allow designers to spot and analyze frictions in the experience or service they are researching on or building.

1st paper prototype

It consisted in 3 parts:

  • A map of the wave-length of frictions, evaluating their level of intensity over the experience.Placed on top of the map of the user’s feelings, it allowed the designers to study the correlation, positive or negative, of frictions on the customer’s emotions.
  • A series of questions as help to determine whether the existing frictions were productive or unproductive
  • And a matrix that evaluates current and future frictions as a comparison of the reward offered versus the level of effort required by the friction.



This is how Gerber and Carroll (2012) define prototyping: « the making of physical or virtual representation of ideas ». In the developing phase of the double diamond process, designers build prototypes to test their ideas with clients, colleagues or users. It allows them to represent the different states of their design and explore possible options (Houde & Hill, 1997).

It is very useful to help designers deal with the uncertainty of the beginning of a project (Gerber & Carroll, 2011). With prototypes, they break down large task into smaller portions. It allows them to step into action frequently and experience small wins throughout the process, and doing so, gaining confidence. Building prototypes is the art of failing fast and cheap. It reframes failure as something positive and necessary and as a great opportunity for learning. Because it gives an opportunity to catch mistakes early and to reduce risk, prototyping helps saving time, effort and therefore value (Warfel, 2009).

What is important to create relevant prototypes is to know your audience: 
is it stakeholders, users, extreme users? According to that, you will be able to choose the right level of fidelity. Houde & Hill in their article, What do prototypes prototype (1997), have developed a model to help designers choose what to prototype and to what level. Positioning your future prototype on one of the axis of the model will let you choose what is important:
- the look & feel, the concrete UX of the product
- the role, the established context
- the implementation, a working system
I have used this model to decide what to prototype in the development of my project.

Credits: Houde and Hill (1997)


I first built a paper prototype with a very low fidelity (see picture above), focusing on the role part of the model explained above. The goal was to be able to share my thoughts with other designers and do a first round of testing as early as possible.



To start, I chose an early development evaluation tool: the Cognitive walkthrough. The idea is to guide other designers through the actual users tasks (Rubin, Chisnell, 2008). We perform together the tasks a users will need to accomplish and evaluate the responses, problems and actions according to the user’s goal (Mahatody, Sagar, Koslki, 2010).

I chose a small number of 3 designers to test this prototype because, so early in the process, as Rubin and Chisnell say:

« It is unnecessary to bring many participants to reveal the obvious ».

They came from different fields and had varied level of professional experience, to give me the possibility to evaluate the relevance of the tool for a wide audience.

The feedbacks were positive on the content even if the tool felt a bit complicated for 2 of the 3 users. Elena Klepikova, Senior Service Designer at Fjord, suggested me to deliver the tool on different levels, according to the desire users would have to explore frictions: from bite size to full course menu. I then iterated the tool to allow for different levels of delivery.


After the first iteration, I built higher fidelity prototype, using data from a case of a current project.

I brought in 2 experts to assess the tool on the base of an expert evaluation. An expert evaluation is a review of a product by a usability specialist or a human factor specialist (Rubin, Chisnell, 2008). To be more effective, I chose the experts so that they are « double specialists », meaning that they are both expert in human factors and in the domain area of the product — in that case, service / interaction design.

2nd prototype during the Expert review

The results of the test were not good. The experts valued the fact that the tool would help generate discussions on frictions, and found very positive that it was made to fit into an existing way of working, the journey map. However, they were left with questions on the very notion of friction and were wondering about the definition of it. A design researcher questioned how we could create data around frictions because the notion is very subjective and context dependent. A service designer asked to know more about the underlying concerns of the emotion caused by the friction: « I need to be polite » « I need to feel safe », etc.


After those two different user tests, I stopped the process and realized that the tool I had built was not answering the right need. My hypothesis that designers just needed a tool to start using frictions in the design of their products or experiences was wrong. The users had asked me more questions about the idea of friction than about the tool itself. I realized that no one will use a tool to integrate something that they consider negative — frictions — in their services. So I decided to come back to my research findings and combine it with the results of the test to uncover the real need designers have when it comes to the topic of frictions.


Chaiffetz, D. (2015) 3 ways friction can improve your UX. Available at: https://medium.com/@InVisionApp/3-ways-friction-can-improve-your-ux-4c7acbcb1996#.xiw3k1jbu (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Choudary, S.P. (2013) How startups compete with friction in product design — platform strategy Blog. Available at: http://platformed.info/traction-friction-matrix/ (Accessed: 21 March 2016).

Gerber, E. and Carroll, M. (2012) ‘The psychological experience of prototyping’, Design Studies, 33(1), pp. 64–84. doi: 10.1016/j.destud.2011.06.005.

Houde, S. and Hill, C. (1997) ‘What do prototypes prototype?’, Handbook of Human Computer Interaction, .

Howard, T. (2014) ‘Journey mapping’, Communication Design Quarterly Review, 2(3), pp. 10–13. doi: 10.1145/2644448.2644451.

Hsu, S., Ying, C. and Zhao, F. (2013) ‘The nature of friction: A critical assessment’, Friction, 2(1), pp. 1–26. doi: 10.1007/s40544–013–0033-z.

Mahatody, T., Sagar, M. and Kolski, C. (2010) ‘State of the art on the cognitive Walkthrough method, its variants and Evolutions’,International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 26(8), pp. 741–785. doi: 10.1080/10447311003781409.

Rubin, J. and Chisnell, D. (2008) Handbook of usability testing: How to plan, design, and conduct effective tests. 2nd edn. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, John & Sons.

WARFEL, T. (2009) Prototyping: A practioner’s guide. Rosenfeld Media.


Nilsson T (2016), VP Customer Insight at Veryday [5 February, 2016]