Have you ever missed a call because you cannot figure out how to answer on your phone’s touch screen? Ever purchased a gadget but can’t understand how to use it? I have! Lately I have been thinking about how many products are not created with users in mind and I believe that there are three principles that are crucial when designing- clarity, deference, and depth.
Clarity- Designing with clarity means that the object’s intended function is obvious. The function of what is being designed is apparent and one can test for clarity by thinking about what someone would think the product is when placed in front of them. People should be able to look at the design and understand what it is. Once people can get the thing’s purpose, we naturally have the ability to figure out how to use the product. If I tell you this is a calculator, and you look at it and understand how to use it without being taught, the design has clarity. For example, calculators used to come with thick user manuals, but today iPhone or Android produce phones that are accompanied with very minimalist instructions. That is clarity, making the object’s function obvious to the user.
Deference- Although it is not a novel concept, deference becomes obvious when working with computers. In my opinion, computers are going to be ubiquitous in the future of technology and society. You will put on glasses that have a computer in them and you will sit in your car with a computer screen dashboard. Computers as we are used to thinking of them- a screen with a keyboard and a mouse, will become a thing of the past. Designing with deference gives the content the highest priority by drawing the user’s attention to it. An important element of deference is eliminating any competing content that would take away from the main purpose of the product’s content. One of the reasons for the great success of the iPad is that when you look at how the hardware/software takes away the keyboard, mouse, stylus, and other controls and clears the space for user relevant content. It is a blank piece of glass, and users know intuitively what to do with this blank piece of glass…the gestures to make things larger, smaller, to scroll through things, it all flows in the same way it would in your physical space and real life experiences. When you make a design with content clarity and deference, everyone intuitively understands how it works.
Depth- Creating lifelike experiences for the end-user through functional groupings sets good and great products that people love to use apart. I think that when you make things real to the end user in the way that they are used to interacting, it produces depth. One reason why so many people like the iPhone is because they have a relationship with it…they talk to and interact with it every day. The reason why we do not have that same personal connection with Microsoft Word or other software programs is because it is an editor and we don’t interact with it in the same way as a smartphone like the iPhone. Another element of depth is creating functional groupings, because content that is grouped with the user’s eye in mind fits into their lifelike experience ith tat erdes who add depth to their work brin vibrancy to a user’s experience. The product fits into the way people live life, and users do not have to alter themselves to fit the technology.
Everyone can benefit from a carefully crafted user experience because it makes the complex simple. No matter how technical the user, everyone will appreciate and gravitate towards a well designed user experience. I encourage designers to use these three principles because I believe that when products are designed with clarity, deference and depth they improve the way we interact with technology.