Is the interface evil?

    The captain of evidence told us that the user interface is an integral part of any software and technical product. Since the interface is all through which the user can interact with such systems, it is logical to conclude that the interface is some kind of transfer system between the desires (and problems) of the user and the capabilities of the product. And it is reasonable to assume that this system, to put it mildly, does not have 100 percent efficiency.
    It turns out that the interface is evil, because in fact this is the hindrance (albeit necessary) that prevents us from using the software product to the full and poses obstacles to our goals. I am sure that many of the readers of Habr once came to this (at first glance, quite reasonable conclusion). Let’s now take a closer look at the pros and cons and find out if there is anything good in the interfaces.

    A picture to attract attention.

    Many luminaries of the UX world, such as, for example, Alan Cooper, often repeat the same idea: the ideal interface is the lack of an interface. Consider the reasons why we so want to remove it and which make us think of interfaces as evil :

    1. Time spent
    Performing a complex sequence of actions (for example, on the website when buying an air ticket), each user has thought more than once that it would be ideal to click their fingers and get what they want immediately and directly in the required form (respectively, a printed air ticket). Well, this interface would become really ideal without such a click. But even he is not so bad, because instead the user has to wade through a bunch of uncomfortable forms and confirmations. His dissatisfaction is quite understandable - he knows his goal, but he cannot reach it quickly. His behavior is similar to that of a driver who suddenly gets stuck in a traffic jam a kilometer or less from home. The windows are already visible in the distance, but to get there you need to waste 5 or 10 minutes. We write the first minus to the interfaces.

    2. Errors
    It is human nature to make mistakes, and the more complex the interface, the higher the likelihood that the user will do something wrong. Depending on how well the program handles errors, the consequences can range from (as in the first case) wasted time to much more serious problems - lost money, lost property, missed events and other incorrigible problems. And such cases bring much more difficulties to users than just wasted time. Add another bold minus.

    3. Time to master
    Among other things, each interface takes time to deal with. That is, by the time of its passage we also add time for development, and if the interface is not well mastered, then the probability of an error, as a rule, increases. This is all the more offensive since we use many interfaces only once. It turns out for him in this case, forced to pay our time twice.

    4. Refusal to perform actions
    Obstacles set by the interface are more or less likely, but lead to the fact that the user refuses to complete the task, leaves the site or application, does not use the purchased technical novelty (which entails a decrease in brand loyalty). Maybe the user would like to realize the opportunity that the project gives him, but the level of complexity at some point exceeds the level of his loyalty, he either simply abandons his goal or starts to look for a similar solution or substitute in accordance with Porter’s forces ( for example, do not fly to Moscow on weekends, but just go bowling).
    It is hundreds, thousands of decisions made by users to refuse to continue their actions with the project that are hidden behind the words "conversion is falling." Any manager would like to see a 100 percent conversion, he perfectly understands why interfaces are evil and will gladly put them another minus.

    5. The interface leads the user in a very winding way, often not quite where he wants
    And so we come to an interesting contradiction. Indeed, the interface is not a sea surface where you can move wherever you want, but a kind of road network. You can reach your goal in several ways, but only along the paths that are laid down in the project. Moreover, sometimes it may turn out that the road where the user wants is not paved at all (but laid to the next, slightly different one), which means that the interface does not allow him to get what he wants.

    Why is this happening?
    Yes, there are frequent cases when this is done by project managers by stupidity, but let's try to consider this problem at a slightly higher level. Suppose you need to buy a hammer. What would be the ideal interface for you? It is reasonable to assume that in the ideal case the hammer should magically appear on your table. Without unnecessary waste of time, effort, money. Stop, where does the money come from? It turns out that the ideal user interface is not very popular with store managers: maybe they would be happy to hire magicians to teleport hammers to people directly home at first request, but they don’t really want this to happen for free. In ordinary life, we are all accustomed to the fact that the services we need and require some concessions from us, but in the case of using programs for some reason we are not always ready to accept this.
    When downloading files from many file hosting sites, instead of a simple download button, users are often offered to go through several partner pages and wait a little longer before their file is available. All this, of course, is very annoying, but you should understand that without this expectation (during which, of course, an advertisement is shown to them), these services simply could not exist. The ideal file hosting interface simply runs counter to a market economy.
    In some cases, registering for additional features is required. This is an obstacle for the user, maybe he is dissatisfied with the presence of this requirement. But if it weren’t for him, it would be more difficult for the project to gain an audience. Well, the checkboxes displayed during registration (like “install Yandex-bar” or “send me fresh offers by email”) is also a compromise between the user's desires and the needs of the project. Perhaps as users it all seems evil to you, but if you become project managers, you will change your mind quite abruptly. In fact, users pay (not by money, but by their actions) and bring benefits to the project.
    You can give an example from the world of retail, which has been improving its interfaces for thousands of years. In some hypermarkets fundamentally do not place hand baskets. For buyers who need to buy food only for a day, this is terribly inconvenient - you have to lug around the store with a huge trolley. But this is precisely what benefits such stores: people, having taken a trolley, are already gaining more in it. The store intentionally did not offer the user a good interface for solving his tasks, because it is more profitable for a business to provide a different interface.
    But here the most important thing is not to overdo it. For example, if such a store openly said: “we do not serve those who buy less than 5,000 rubles,” this would significantly undermine the loyalty of the total mass of customers, which would naturally lead to a decrease in sales. That is, the interface needs to be created not for the user and not for the manager, but for the needs of the project, the interface should be such that the key indicators of the project are maximum.

    Another interesting featureHypermarkets have long become well-known. The most popular products (bread, milk, meat, fish) are placed away from the entrance. Why? After all, for the buyer it would be ideally quick to go to the store, choose the most necessary and not spend too much time. But, of course, this decision is not accidental - on the way to the necessary products the buyer picks up a lot of other things, the average bill in this case is higher, which, of course, is more profitable for the store.
    We are faced with another feature of the interface - even the simplest interfaces often have a motivating effect. This means that you should not think that a person always, every minute and second of his life, defines his goals for himself, and the interface only satisfies these goals. The interface can motivate him to achieve some new goal, from the smallest one (for example, to buy a chocolate bar on the way to the dairy department), to much more serious ones - to study Objective C (after reading how much iOS developers earn on the job site), start skating skiing (seeing photos from the Alps).
    The interfaces of social networks have a good motivating property. A user visits a website or social network application for various reasons - someone wants to flip through the news, someone saw in the mail that they had commented on his photo, someone was interested to see how many likes his post typed. But all these people usually do not leave immediately after satisfying their interest. They continue to walk around the site, and each of their next step is usually determined by the content that was on the previous one.
    Contextual (and not only) advertising is, in general, also about motivation. Sometimes it is very close to our desires, while the motivating component is only to open a specific site (which is also not so small), but in some cases new wishes are put into our heads and they are offered to satisfy them with a transition in a bright and colorful manner. Again, let's recall file hosting services, where after the start of downloading a file the user is bored, he just waits for his file to load, so at this moment it is open to new desires; many entertainment projects actively use traffic from file-sharing networks.
    In general, this all seems pretty obvious, but still there is a reason why I am writing it here: examples of user motivation do not really fit in with the principle of “interface is evil”. After all, if we offered the user an ideal interface from his point of view, for example, buying a book. He would snap his fingers, and the book would be on his desk. But thanks to our motivating interface, he would not have found another 5 cool, interesting and useful books for him. It turns out that everyone won from such an interface: both the store and the user. Perhaps there were difficulties with the purchase, but the language does not turn out to be called an evil interface.

    Finally, I’ll leave the sweetest.
    Let us recall the situation from the beginning of the article: the driver got stuck in a traffic jam on his way to the house, he already sees the windows of his house, but the traffic jam practically does not move. He is angry and dreams of only one thing: to snap his fingers and be there, outside the windows of the house.
    And now, it would seem, a practically similar situation: the climber climbs a high mountain. He had several heavy climbs behind him, and the peak had already appeared due to the haze. Before her, literally something 200 meters, but on the way an ice wall. He repeatedly drives metal pins into it, clings to any crack, but it is very difficult to lift. From pain he has reduced muscles, but one goal - to get to the top. To slightly stretch his fingers, he accidentally clicks them and once ... and he is on top.
    It would seem that he should be satisfied: he wanted to visit the top, and now he stands on it. Why is he not happy? The fact is that mountaineering is autotelic (formed from two ancient Greek words: auto - itself and telos - goal) activity, that is, it has value in itself. A very large layer of what we are doing is related specifically to autothelial activity: this is raising children, communicating, playing sports. This also includes even driving a car and, of course, programming.
    The term was introduced by one of the most prominent psychologists of our time - an American scientist of Hungarian origin, Mihai Chiksentmihayi. He very actively studied the phenomenon of happiness and came to the conclusion that people feel most happy when all their attention is subordinated to some activity; it is in this state that creative masterpieces and outstanding achievements are born. A lot of people in conversations with him said that they seemed to have been caught in a stormy river, so Chiksentmihayli called this state a state of flow. I am writing this article in one breath, I want to finish it more quickly, but I also really like the writing process, so I’ve been in the stream for a couple of hours now. Well, you, dear habrachitateli, once read up to this point, you also most likely experienced its easy option - reading is also able to fully capture a person,
    Now remember all the games you played. Imagine, for example, that by entering Angry Birds, you will see only one “Win” button, clicking on which you will receive a message that the birds defeated all the pigs and everything is fine. Obviously, it makes no sense that the user enters the game not to defeat the pigs, but to enjoy the process of achieving the same goal. Even games with the free2play model use payments very carefully: if you let the user just buy everything he wants, the game will lose its meaning, not today, tomorrow. Nobody wants to lose such an audience, so the basic hooks remain unchanged for both paying and non-paying audiences.
    In fact, the interface for the player is the game. Without an interface, it is not possible for a player to achieve a stream state. Do not tell him that the interface is evil, for him the game interface is the source of his pleasure.
    Moreover, we can say that in games, in general, everything turns upside down. Errors are not so critical and sometimes even useful. If the user of the game can easily cope with it without errors, then his attention is no longer directed to a large extent on achieving goals in the game, and the flow state disappears. He becomes bored of playing such a game.
    “Okay,” you say, “it’s understandable with games, but in other cases we are moving for the sake of the goal, not the process.” But actually these things are sometimes very difficult to distinguish. At that moment, when the interface is able to capture a significant portion of user attention, an easy version of the streaming state is born. Thanks to the directed attention, he perceives information more fully and at this moment is also subject to the influence of the motivating component of the interface. It is on this principle that good landing pages are built (the pages where the user gets from the advertising link, their task is to conduct it so that something hooks it). They often consist of 5-6 pages, each of which gives some part of information about the subject of interest to a person. At first, his interest may not be so high, but each page motivates reading the following (or, perhaps perform a simple action on it), the user goes further and further, more and more immersed in the environment where he got. Through these 5-6 pages, he is often already ready to drive in an email and subscribe to the newsletter - the stream captured his attention, and the motivating part of the interface put this desire into his head.

    In general , I’ll try to summarize: always think about the ideal interface for each specific situation. In some cases, the ideal interface, of course, will be its absence, but in a huge number of cases the interface is needed, and getting rid of extra clicks thoughtlessly or minimizing the time spent working with it just to minimize the time itself will be a very big mistake. Like so much in our lives, the interface and evil and good are both.

    Also popular now: