Work, Interrupted

How spoons can save product design


Work, Interrupted

Think of your day: how many times do you get interrupted by push notifications, email, text messages, ads, random buzzing and haptic feedback. Digital economy of today thrives on interrupting the users, chasing the ever-diminishing attention span.

Thing is, nobody likes being interrupted. It’s rude, inconsiderate, mean, and it breaks our flow. Interruptions dissect our day into tiny little pieces, and our brain, endlessly trying to focus, just floats. We’re here but we’re not fully present. We’re collectively obsessed with a zombie apocalypse — only the zombies are us. We’re being reduced to digital ghosts, a walking breathing sum of our daily interruptions.

How spoons can save product design

At some point soon, we’re going to collectively start saying no to narcissistic crude technology that doesn’t know when it’s time to just shut up. I’m eager to see the sales figures for that Apple Watch, because the promise of technology to augment our life has yet to be fulfilled.

When you think of your product, ask yourself: does it fit seamlessly with the established ways people interact with the world? How much are you asking of your users, and are you giving them a strong enough reason to stick around? How close is your product to a spoon?

There is no spoon

  1. Spoon doesn’t ask much of its users: it is designed to fit seamlessly in your hand. Babies learn to use a spoon in weeks. Spoon is universally accessible by design, no matter your gender, geography, age, culture or skin colour.
  2. Spoon suggests an obvious use-case. We know exactly what it’s for, how to use it, and most of the time it is a helpful, invisible intermediary between us and food. When we eat, we appreciate the food. We can’t eat a soup without a spoon, but we hardly notice how much we need it. Because it augments our behaviour.
  3. Spoon doesn’t interrupt. It is by definition not a narcissistic product. It is not going to tell me what to eat, what restaurant has a special that night, and who to invite for dinner. It’s got a primary function, and everything about a spoon is focused on doing that one thing it’s built to do, and doing it well.

Every spoon is built to disappear when used, get out of the way and get us food. A perfect tool, and a good standard to keep in mind when evaluating digital products.

Get into lane. GET — INTO — LANE. In two hundred metres, turn left. Left. LEFT! LEFT! THE HAND THAT YOU WEAR YOUR WATCH ON!”
~ Disgruntled GPS

Build products that know when to disappear. Build smooth roads you will want to drive on. Bikes that respond to motion and pressure, sending subtle signals that give the user that wonderful experience of mastery. Have you ever used a really great knife?

Make products designed to get things done to get the attention you want.

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