We’ve all been there: following a set brief to the letter, super glued to finding a screen-based solution. How can we break out of this narrow way of thinking, and design solutions that truly boost the user’s experience? Here, I explore a great new way of thinking, revealed by Golden Krishna in his fantastic ‘The Best Interface is No Interface’.
As a design agency, clients often come to us to produce ‘the solution’: from websites to showcase their product selection, to an app for controlling a bedside lamp for example. There’s usually an idea in their heads that we, as an agency, have been asked to bring to life, and offer creativity within this frame. For instance, a client could approach an agency with an idea for an app. Here, the usual agency protocol would be to understand the brief, send a quote and then agree on a proposal for the project.
There’s no question that this approach can work. But, this ‘format-based’ way of thinking could also lead to products being built that don’t necessarily solve the original problem behind clients’ request. As designers, we should dig deeper: aiming to understand the business context, objectives and drive behind the idea brought to us, and challenging ourselves to find the best solution.
Golden Krishna’s ‘The Best Interface Is No Interface’ introduces an alternative way of thinking about how to solve a problem, getting away from ‘screen-based solutions’. This is greatly valuable to digital agencies and designers. I can best explain his way of thinking through my example below.
Imagine a global supermarket chain approaches a design agency, and gives them the following brief: “we want to make an app for our customers, so they can pay for their shopping using their mobile device.” After the app has been made and launched, here’s how a customer could use it, step-by-step:
That’s a seventeen-step process for customers to pay for their shopping with this app. Compare this with the purchase process for customers without it:
Clearly, the original experience is much faster and easier for customers. The app's incredibly lengthy process is the potential result of a digital agency applying just screen-based thinking. It’s a product of over-focus on the surface wishes of a client; instead, we must drill deeper to truly solve their problem.
Take the problem from a user’s perspective, and truly consider the problem in hand – not automatically applying a screen-based thinking approach. By thinking of ways other than automatically making an app or website to solve design problems, we can often create really useful and memorable products and experiences for our users.
With the pay app for example, if the agency had applied a user-centred, non-screen based thinking approach, they would have searched for other physical ways to help make paying for shopping easier for users. Luckily someone already did this, and came up with a very simple innovation: the contactless credit card. Here’s how easy the process could be for a user:
This product focuses on making the user’s journey quick and simple, with as little interaction as possible. It also draws on current behaviour patterns, which means user adaptation is likely to be smooth.
As designers and digital agencies, I believe this way of thinking is invaluable because:
However it does have its limitations:
Overall, learning about this way of thinking has benefitted the way I tackle design problems. It reinforces the message that focusing on the user’s end goal is the best way to provide memorable experiences. If you can do this with as little interaction and complications as possible, then you have created something great. Find out more about Golden Krishna’s way of thinking in a Q&A with Econsultancy.
Of course, getting away from the screen isn’t always the answer. But as a designer, I think it’s imperative to learn about the examples where asking questions and approaching a problem from a different angle has led to some great innovations of product user experience, which could easily go unnoticed due to their simplicity.
Creatively prototype on paper, to avoid a 'format-based' thinking.