Alastair Somerville

Mar 26, 2016

2 min read

Crammed in the corner together

On finding pace and space in life

I was talking at World Information Architecture Day in London about Nothing last month. You can watch the video here I was also talking to Pamela Pavislak earlier this week about Happiness design.

Both events reminded me of how much of our design and of our expectations of business value are unbalanced. The ideals of frictionless interaction, the need to maintain and measure online contact, to follow and divert attention.

We make and measure on the assumption that good business is in keeping a tight lock on customers’ conscious sight and driving them as quickly as possible from browsing to buying.

All of this is a trap of the digital.

Digital can make things very quick.

Digital can measure activity.

However, this is the trap of the explicit. The data events, the timing, the physical clicking. All of those clearly visible, clearly measurable events.

The data, the proof, the return.

We’re crammed together, hunched in the corner, staring at statistics as goods pile up at our front door.

But that’s not right.

The things that make humans wonderful aren’t in the tight, fast moments.

The implicit, the open, the slow.

Look at those things.

The shop you love but only go to every now and again to buy the things you need for the hobby you love.

The time spent walking around thinking about the idea you’re forming.

In data terms, these activities have terrible returns. The shop used infrequently, the walk without an email written.

Where data isn’t, where activity doesn’t rush; these are places we are human.

I’m not saying that everything needs to be slow and analogue, just that design and business is being drawn to the bright and overt lights of measurable events as proof that fast and digital is better.

It is not. It’s a balance. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow.

Just take care.

When designing the faster checkout, think about whether the person might actually need more time to think. A gap in time is good for people’s sense of contentment in decision making.

Maybe you lose a sale now but you gain a customer for life?

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX

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