A lot of what I do for a living is dedicated to creating appropriate, relevant and profitable user experiences. The prevailing logic in experience design (or at least in the wild west that is digital experience design) is that friction is bad. The most effective user experiences are those which present the least obstacles between the end user and the task we want them to achieve. I have always found this to be too neat for the real world and too dogmatic to fit the pace of technology and the behaviours it creates.
User experiences which simply work are rare, but rarely enough. Interactions which win have to be meaningful and remembered, they need to have texture and context, which brings me to the subject of friction and how the right kind of challenges, hurdles and stories can deliver user experience magic.
The most recent People’s Planning nominee – molecular gastronomy pioneer Heston Blumenthal – has proven that he can be as counterintuitive in thinking about the experience as he is in the kitchen (or lab.) What’s more , he has managed to flip the issue of usability friction right on its head.
High customer demand and the amount of work required to meet it means that the fabled Fat Duck has a two-month advance booking policy, which poses a considerable user experience barrier for bookings. Rather than issuing desperate apologies for it Mr Blumenthal has turned it this two-month waiting period from a user experience hurdle into a virtue by creating an entire time-coded interactive narrative around it. The story is fantastic, and best described by the man himself:
I have always been amazed by the courage, imagination and persistence that are required to run a successful restaurant. Being presented with the opportunity to plan, produce, deliver and assess the effectiveness of your product on a very tight timescale and within a tight feedback loop is the very definition of ‘lean.‘ What’s best is that this happens in the real world and not on navel-gazing industry blogs. And on that note…
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