8. Second hypothesis: Designers need to hear about the benefits of frictions first — Success

Introducing the notion of Productive Frictions at Veryday


Looking back at the insights I gathered through the literature review and during the interviews I have conducted and the many discussions I have had, I realized that friction raises negative thoughts in most designer’s minds, including 6 out of 7 interviewees. but when exposed to the subject and after reflecting on it, the opinions change in many cases.

This lead me to the conclusion that the main need is about giving an opportunity to explore and raise awareness on what friction could be used for. So that it is seen as a tool and not an obstacle.

« I need examples of where frictions has been useful, so that I know it can be a tool for me » said an Interaction Designer I interviewed

From this I developed my 2nd hypothesis:

Designers need to learn about friction to consider it as a tool to design better experiences

Concept Development

A comment from one of the expert users resonated when reflecting on how to best raise designer’s awareness about friction: « I would like to see a workshop on frictions, with templates and cards. So that I understand what it is and how to use it »

A workshop would allow me to expose my thoughts on frictions, sharing the results of my research and making my work actionable for the industry. Being interactive, it would also help me gather feedbacks and use cases to sharpen my knowledge on the topic.

I then set out to build a workshop that would consist in a knowledge sharing first part, some exercises to experiment frictions — physical, cognitive or digital — in a second part and finally a set of recommendations on when and how to use friction in design.

(See in the appendix for the presentation that comes with the workshop)

Prototyping / Testing


In order to test my second hypothesis, I organized a usability test with five users. According to Jakob Nielsen (1998), a study with five users allows to find 85% of the usability problems. It will give me enough data to validate or invalidate my hypothesis and proceed to a third iteration.

In experience design, usability testing is a basic methodology that comes from controlled experiments. An hypothesis is first formulated then tested and eventually confirmed or rejected (Rubin, Chisnell, 2008). It is a qualitative method that is less formal than other classical scientific approaches and fits into the fast paced environment of the industry. Rubin and Chisnell affirm that it is an « almost infallible indicator of potential problems and the means to resolve them ».

I chose to do an assessment usability test. It is a type of test that has for objective to define how effectively the concept has been implemented. The D.school explains that the aim is to create an experience that users can react to and advises designers to think about the testing scenario to ensure the possibility for meaningful feedback.

To prepare the test, I created a user test guide (see appendix) to define:

  • the purposes and goals of the test
  • the research questions I am trying to answer with the test
  • the measure for success of the test
  • the list of exercises users will go through during the test

It is also important to be aware of the limits of usability testing. Participants to the test are not representative of the full spectrum of the target population and as it is an artificial situation, the results don’t prove that the product is working (Rubin, Chisnell, 2008).


The test took place the 17th of March with the five users simultaneously. They were selected from different fields of design: design research, interaction design, service design and visual design to allow for broad feedback on the level of understanding and use of the prototype.

This time, the results of the test were extremely positive. The two measures of success that I had set out prior to it were obtained and actually exceeded:

  • All participants had their opinion on friction in design go up by at least 2 points, with an average of +4,5
  • All participants answered yes when asked if they would consider friction as a tool in their design process
  • Overall, the participants found the workshop easy to follow and engaging, even if some parts were too emphasized and others too little. They were convinced by the interest of productive frictions in design and were willing to use it as a tool.

Thanks to this test, I can consider my hypothesis as partially validated. It will require more iterations and tests to be exactly sure, but that belongs to the steps I will take after the end of this paper.

Four users expressed a need to know more about how exactly to use frictions. Therefore I decided to sum up the learnings of this research in the form of recommendations on when and how to use frictions.


D.school (2014) Prototype to test. Available at: https://dschool.stanford.edu/wp-content/themes/dschool/method-cards/prototype-to-test.pdf (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

Nielsen, J. (1998) Why you only need to test with 5 users. Available at: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/ (Accessed: 22 March 2016).

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.