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I initially read this headline as "the idea of mastering the skills of a freelancer is totally passé!"
Back in my day we had a "chatbot" called Zork. It was a puzzle game, so being inscrutable and willfully obtuse was a feature.
Snapchat's UI is horrible at being learnable for the new user but might be excellent at being efficient for the expert user. The app you use occasionally needs explicit affordances and a well-organized interface to remind you how it works. The app you use constantly, reflexively throughout the day, probably one-handed and while you're walking or bouncing around in the back of your Lyft (or limo) or dancing at a concert or club -- that app needs giant targets you can't help but hit with your thumb and navigation that's just swiping in a particular direction.
Like any system designed for (non-life-threatening) repetitive tasks by a user who's dedicated to its operation, Snapchat's first use can be like falling into a giant salad spinner as long as its 100th use is like careening down a giant waterslide. So I'm voting for genius, even if the genius is partly accidental. The design could probably be improved, but the general principles would probably be the same.
Disclaimer: I've tried it, it drove me insane (both in content and form), I deleted it. I will never be a dedicated Snapchat operator (as a member of Gen X I'm probably too old, for starters) and that's...okay.
I loved this article when it hit my inbox and I'm glad to see it posted here too. Excellent food for thought!
If we take the Uber/Lyft phenomenon as an example, I'd say those products couldn't arise without a considerable amount of empathy -- for the consumer. The improvement of those experiences over the old frustrations of getting and riding in a taxi is considerable. That specific example might be problematic due to the controversies surrounding labor practices and corporate culture at Uber (perhaps Lyft, too, I'm not sure), and one might argue that these stem from a different kind of empathy problem, but you can't design for your users in an empathy vacuum.
That UX guy sounds like a charlatan. The good news is you're smart enough to know that one bad example doesn't prove a rule.
Constructive feedback (I hope): I was confused at first because I wasn't sure if there were layers of irony to peel back. Sometimes posts like this have the format "Myth about what not to do Ironic elaboration on the myth"; sometimes it's "Myth But here's what you should really do." It took me three or four rereads of the first few items to decide you'd intended it to be "Really do this No seriously, really do this, it's a good idea." I'm not sure what led me down that weird path -- maybe the "stupid things designers do" in the title made me assume it would be a list of stupid things.
Anyway, I'm not 100% sure I ever quite got on your wavelength. What I read was entertaining, though.
I haven't, but I'm glad to hear it.
The actual hard stuff doesn't have to suck. I can think of a number of Apple products I've enjoyed using as much as I enjoy using Slack (and many unfortunate exceptions, e.g. iTunes). I can also think of a few Slack-like products I've enjoyed less than I enjoy using Slack, so maybe the "easy" stuff isn't that easy either.
In any case, I agree that the "talking down to" part is unnecessary and unbecoming, and who knows? Maybe the 40 year old company that makes $17 billion in profit will knock it out of the park with this one. You know, since they've solved all the hard stuff and that should make enjoyment easier for them to build as well.
Well, in Slack's defense I will say that I can't think of a single Microsoft product I've ever enjoyed using as much as I enjoy using Slack. I don't think they're wrong about their virtues, though perhaps it would have been more graceful to allow those virtues to speak for themselves.
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