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Less is more

Recently, I’ve started to wonder what really matters to me here in life. The answers have surprised me and I’d like to share one of them with you now.

Over time, I’ve acquired more personal property than most. I have many physical things that live in boxes, papers I’ve archived and will never read again, and the still-packed remnants of my late parent’s home filling my attic.

But here’s my epiphany: most of this stuff just doesn’t matter. Except maybe the good wine glasses ☺

Oh, I love my books. I love my piano. I have some paintings that mean a lot to me. But that’s all – just a tiny fraction of the physical stuff that clutters my life. Even family photos are somewhat irrelevant; what’s in my memory is far more meaningful than faded images in a tattered folder. When I say my head is in the clouds, think in terms of cloud computing, not naïveté.

Working too hard, achieving too little
Suddenly, I realized what I had long suspected: Good user experience, UX, is a question of less rather than more. Much much less than what most practitioners…practice.

We don’t need to analyze 150 touchpoints along the customer journey; instead we should focus our attention on finding those few essential moments that make a truly meaningful difference. We don’t need 1000 pages on our website, only the dozen or so that truly tell our story. Do we really need to clutter up our message with a QR code? Perhaps not. And we certainly shouldn’t be spending more to produce strategy documents than on creating the artifacts that contribute directly to UX. Or inventing new names for time-honored techniques.

How to do it
This is the seemingly tough part. Yet in truth it is remarkably easy.

Imagine you’re about to buy a house. You walk in. You take in the big view. When you leave, you have a selection of impressions imbedded in your brain. These are the key issues. It is only when you decide to buy the house that you make detailed measurements, consult an architect and an interior designer and other specialists.

So, in terms of UX, I beg you to roll things back a bit. Try and remember the big picture, before you get bogged down in site statistics, and all the specialties that characterize our industry.

The big picture is where the true UX story lies. Is “God in the details?” Where UX is concerned, it strikes me that the Devil is in the details.

As designers, we need to take off our eyeglasses. We need to spot the big fuzzy shapes. They will almost always define the elements of UX on which we should later focus.

We must not allow ourselves to be so blinded by our amazing opportunities to examine big data, that we can no longer see the forest for all the little digital trees. Alas, it appears user experience is rapidly becoming the stooge of big data. We bow before the alter of obscure statistics. Yet, these data will never move us beyond the “what.” Our talent as designers lies in discovering the “why” and communicating this effectively.  If we fail to do so, we will never convey the needed empathy toward either our users or our stakeholders.
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