The Wikipedia definition of User Experience Design tells us that this is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product.
There’s nothing wrong with that. There are many patterns and standards that help achieve just that, but how do we know we’ve gone too far? Is it actually possible to go too far?
UX and web development work requires a fair amount of research, part of which is directed to our final users. We need to find out how our product is performing so we can make it better.
But we probably need to define what it means to make it better.
Websites and their controls
Forms, carousels, scrolling, buttons, navigation bars, etc. Are all part of what makes a website or a mobile app. Each one has its own advantages and complications, but they work. They do what they were designed to do.
There is a learning curve with every new type of device that comes on the market. There was one with computers, there was one with the computer mouse, there was one with the first smartphones and then with touch screens and soft keyboards. there will always be one. This is ok.
People have learned to use their devices, and as such they have (and will) learn new ways to interact with them if they have to. But when we decide to strip the controls off our applications, under the assumption that the user will not know how to use them, we are also stripping the opportunity for the user to learn.
Same happens with the way the internet itself works. There are URLs and domain names which have been around since the very start. At some point someone decided to hide them away from the user because they thought the user couldn’t understand them. Then left them to “Search” instead of directly type urls, like this is magically a better or safer way to get to their desired content.
What happens now if their desired content is not the first result of the search? Chaos. Wouldn’t it have been better to have educated our users about URLs in the first place?
The daily life
When I learned to drive, I had to learn how to park my car. Cars of today can park themselves for you, because it’s more convenient. But with this trend, eventually the new drivers won’t have the need to know how to park a car. Moreover there are even cars that can brake for you if you are distracted, so people don’t even have to be careful anymore.
Another example is how the news editors are making videos instead of getting people to read the articles, or how Amazon’s Audible service reads the book for you. Soon, people won’t even need to know how to read or write as they can speak to their phones and the phone can speak back to them.
The need makes the skill, and the more we take the needs away, the less skills will be necessary to survive in the modern world.
More and more we’re making design decisions based on the assumption that the user doesn’t understand. Design decisions that take away the need for them to learn something new.
If you see the future from this point of view, sadly, the reality portrayed on Wall-E doesn’t seem unlikely at all.