UX design inspiration from “Thinking, fast and slow”
If you have been following me, you’ve known that my daily job is to design complex B2B systems. Sometimes, for B2B products, the complexity is not what we want to avoid, but what we want to provide instead. Think about Google Analytics and Google Search. The level of complexity highly depends on the business needs of a product.
It’s nothing wrong to be complex, but complexity does not mean it’s difficult to use.
How can we, as designers make it easier for users?
Reading the book reminded me of some good practices in UX that helps reduce mental efforts. The secret behind is benefits from matching the two thinking systems.
Benefits of matching System 1 & 2
In the book, Kahneman describes two different ways the brain forms thoughts:
- System 1: Fast, automatic, frequent, emotional, stereotypic, unconscious.
- System 2: Slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.
For example, when seeing the button, I perceive alert and danger (System 1). Because of this, I wouldn’t click it right away. I will take the time to figure out the meaning and determine if I want to perform this action or not (System 2).
In the example, the info System 1 delivers is matching and supporting System 2’s job.
Because of the laziness of human nature, users would always like to minimize the total mental efforts. Therefore, the benefits of matching the two systems in user experience are:
- Build the user’s trust in the system. Delivering as users expect can create more fluent interactions and prevent user errors. On the contrary, misalignment of what users perceive and what it actually does will force users to guess the outcome and remind themselves of the potential risks.
- Increases the user’s efficiency. As I mentioned, System 2 is used for solving more complicated problems. Getting the consistent information allows users to focus their mental effort on what is core to their goal instead of what is it, what to expect or how to find what they need.
How can we make use of it?
Build a cohesive experience within the product
Users should not see different words, interface, or experience to represent the same thing in one product. Minimize the user’s memory load by applying a standardized design system. Even if you don’t have a design system yet, applying the same patterns will be a good start. Small things like keep save button always at the right-hand side and cancel on the left will unload a lot more efforts than we can imagine.
In Adele, you can find really good examples of design systems.
Design the product to be consistent with the real world
The product should speak the users’ “language”, with vocabulary, visual elements and concepts familiar to the user. Following real-world conventions save users efforts to learn and adapt.
Noted that user’s affordance is established from the previous experience, it varies from culture, context and mindset of the action taker.
For example, we all know that English speakers read from left to right and from top to bottom. That’s why an F-shaped reading pattern for web content is not surprising. And naturally, the F shape is mirrored for Arabic speakers, because they read from right to left.
When designing the hierarchy a page, it’s important to consider the reading order.
Frame it in the best way
Until now we were talking about offering users the things they want the most. However, when necessary, we can also make use of the information passed from System 1 to System 2. By framing the message in a different way, the perception and conclusions of users will be affected deeply.
Kathryn Whitenton talked about how cognitive biases in decision frames affect UX practitioners. In the article, she talked about 2 statements describing the exact same result logically. But the conclusions users came to were very different. For instance, if we want to maintain the user satisfaction, we should probably use the second one.
Break the mold when necessary
Habits users have already formed are not always the best solutions. Breaking it certainly has risks as we mentioned. However, build a new and better pattern is sometimes necessary.
I recently read a related article by Theo Strauss about how Lyft design the search bar.
Our System 1 is trained to make us look for the search bar at the top. However, Lyft’s search bar isn’t at the tippy-top, but in a sweet spot for thumbs. This is a brave move built on a justified reason.