May 28, 2015
Last week I was introduced to the fantastic Tumblr, 2 Kinds of People. In the author’s words, the blog is about “the smallest detail of everyday life that everybody can relate with.” I have been amused by all of the posts, but the first one really struck a chord.
I upgraded my iPhone 4S to an iPhone 6 back in December, and in doing so upgraded not only the technology, but also how I interact with my apps.
The apps on my 4S were meticulously organized into folders. The information architect in me created a classification system and everything was filed in (alphabetical) folders. The system did what it should; it was tidy and I could easily find what I wanted. But there were frustrations. I could only put 12 apps into a single folder and aesthetically, it left much to be desired. Form followed function, as it were.
So when I upgraded to the iPhone 6, I decided to try a different approach. I let the graphic designer in me take the lead and instead of hiding the apps into folders, I organized them by color. This system takes up significantly more “screens” and, at times, takes longer to find what I’m looking for (“what color is Allrecipes again?”), but I enjoy interacting with my phone more now than ever before. Aesthetically, it calms me, and I’ll take the extra swipes and occasional moments of frustration involved to have my chromatically curated interface.
The change in how I organize my apps has been an interesting study in app-icon design, but I’ll save that for another post. What I will say is that when developing the user flow and user interface design for a website or app, we, as architects, designers, developers and technologists do our best to anticipate how a user will interact with it — but in reality, every user is unique. There are best practices and we try to accommodate what should be most users’ preferences, but people have different preferences, different objectives, different limitations, different distractions, differing points of frustration and those may change over time.
It is our responsibility as industry professionals to interact with users interacting with our products. To observe, in the hands of our users, the different ways in which a tool can be used. To learn from them first-hand and to evolve the products to in turn make their lives easier.