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TODAY’S STORY
11 Jul
,
2022

The Alfred to our Batman

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Short piece today.

The idea is simple and yet very insightful.

“All user input is error.”

What does this mean?

Think about the core job-to-be-done when it comes to any technology — making life easier, faster, more convenient — and then think about the most convenient state imaginable and work backwards from that.

This is not just a useful UX design principle, but also a mental model that leads to moonshot thinking.

And it starts with the fundamental belief that,

The best technology is invisible.

As a user, you don't want to be fiddling around with technology to get something done. You don't want to have a thick user manual for any device you're operating. And you don't want to be managing the system; you want the system to be managing you.

As a designer, your core job then is to make the experience as seamless as possible. That involves integrating a certain level of intelligence into the system so that it can predict or at least smartly figure out what the user is trying to achieve and perform 8 out of 10 steps in the process on its own.

Good technology delights the user and helps them do their job better. Bad technology does not focus on user experience, but on technical features.

Reduce steps. Reduce friction. Reduce user input.

That's what artificial intelligence is supposed to do, right? Act as an Alfred to our Batman. As long as you're managing Alfred instead of Alfred managing you, the technology is failing to solve its purpose.

Of course, the nuance here is that not all friction is bad friction. Sometimes, you might want to increase friction and hide undesirable features under three layers of a menu. In this way, friction can act as a good knob that designers can tweak to influence long-term user behaviour and build habits.

Also, the “reduce friction” approach only applies to technology and intelligent systems, not to other areas of business — like building a brand. For building a brand, you might actually want to increase friction to increase desirability.

But that's a topic for another day.

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