Noticeably changing interface (and designers always notice little changes) creates an illusion or false sense that features have changed in some way. And overall, what do you really win by "reducing" usability? A bit lighter interface, but not much else. I really don't think it's a worthy optimisation, and CAN lead to additional confusion.
Jonas - Consistency is obviously required throughout the process, otherwise you're just going to create confusion.
You should note that this isn't just about making the experience better for a pro user. It's also about encouraging the right kind of behavior. Our thinking is this: Sometimes it's helpful to new users to emphasis on one part of the UI.
That said, removing labels isn't reducing usability when you're dealing with an expert — the opposite is happening. You're probably familiar with the Photoshop interface, for example. Would you say that adding a label to each icon would increase the usability of it for you?
Very cool and interesting.
I can also see this working in the opposite direction - Tools that are more frequently used are kept expanded, and tools that are rarely used or never used are minimized, and optionally hidden.
It depends on how well it's implemented, and I can see the value of using this technique to direct user behavior.
I think trying out new things like this is definitely moving UI design forward, and in the right direction.
However in this particular case I'm not sure I see the value for the user. Hiding big "getting started" help messages is one thing, but when you hide a label what do I gain from that exactly? Less clutter? But it's not like the app's UI was cluttered or hard to use in the first place.
Maybe I'm just saying this because I haven't experienced it in the actual app yet, but from what I read in the blog post this looks like a solution in need of a problem.
I've worked on products where tips/guides/labels were made sensitive to the users usage frequency - the user has has used a specific feature X number of times, we consider them a power user and suggest they might want to know there's a gesture (touch/mobile) shortcut they can use to acces this easily. Or if a user is visiting a certain page X number of times and isn't engaging with it in the way we want them to, show them a tip on the 3rd time to make sure they're understanding it etc.
But I've never seen this kind thinking frequency context applied to pre existing static elements like buttons. Really interesting take on the idea. Love it.
I think this concept applied to content rather than visual functionality is also interesting. Imagine the yahoo news homepage, or facebook homepage evolving based on what you use and what they think is valuable for you, I think there is real value in that.
The unfortunate thing about this methodology that I worry about is all the other things one could be doing instead. From a business perspective, is this moving the bar towards where we need to go.
Great and interesting experiment. it's almost like the bubbles you see in a lot of onboarding for products, except this isn't a one time tutorial.
I like this approach and definitely think it has it's applications in some types of applications
I'm really on the fence with this idea. On one hand I don't see it being too harmful, any initial discomfort from the person using this would figure it out pretty quickly but I just don't know if there is enough of a benefit to warrant the effort.
I also don't like pushing too much on people. What if you were prompted to let you know that this change had been made with explicit directions on how to revert back?
I've thought about something like this in our own work, but have always been a bit reluctant with implementing as less frequent users may get confused if they get a power-user's UI. I like that you've addressed this as 'Experience Decay' and it's part of the plan.
I will say that this really challenges the ideas of consistency and familiarity in design, but I think those ideas need a bit of challenging. Humans are habitual but they require less cues as they are more accustomed to a task. Think about driving to a new friend's house. The first few times, you watch for street numbers but as time and visits increase, you abandon street signs and move towards more abstract cues, like landmarks, etc. Provided there is a continuity of UI during the reduction, I think this could work very well.
My head spins thinking about how you would technically implement this, though! Great job!
"Our Signposting button starts out as a large icon with a label. When you’ve demonstrated proficiency, we remove the label. After you’ve become a total pro, we de-emphasize the button altogether."
It's an interesting experiment, Allan. Why do you think de-emphasized buttons will be helpful to power users? In the long term, do you feel the additional code and design time will be worthwhile? Is it a repeatable and consistent process?
I think there will definitely be some unforseen challenges in flexible UI like this, especially at scale. It'll be interesting to see your thoughts on this in a few months on how well it's working.
Food for thought:
How far can you reduce something? Is it just removing labels, and negating colors until it becomes a stand alone symbol? Does reduction also include hiding functions? Can everything be reduced? If not, what can and what can't?
Only hiccup I can imagine is trying to give a tutorial on something and having it hard to explain.
But...this is really fucking cool. I really love this type of thinking.
Not to get into this kind of conversation, but what about "familiarity decay" or something like that? I read "experience decay" as referencing the apps UX rather than the user's experience level.
Yeah — That's a reasonable suggestion.
I love the idea. I have a hard time seeing how this could lead an an absolute negative outcome. This kind of thinking can only lead to better UX. THe question is in the details of execution.
This feels like something people are willing to write off only because the path to success is as yet unclear, whereas long proven conventions have evidence to prove their effectiveness and with that comes a sense of comfort. A more intelligent and responsive app, something that adapts to us — sounds more human, more natural. Sounds good to me :)
How long have you guys been practicing this?
I would love to see a follow-up on this in a few months on things you learn about the technique, both pros and cons.
Not very long at all. A follow-up would be excellent, especially once we implement it across most of our features.
Conceptually, this has been happening for years in video games. Time spent, actions taken, leveling up, etc have yielded changes throughout the game (making things available, hiding them, etc). I would imagine users respond positively to gradual changes in a UI, especially with removing repetitive elements like labels. That said, it would be fascinating to have some data behind that theory.
I like this! Would love to know how this is implemented from a technical standpoint, as in: what are the requirements to "step up". Would it be after clicking the button a certain amount of times, or is using the service itself X amount of times enough?