By Joe Sare
Can you be bothered to read this? (low vs high effort Pt.1)
Can you be bothered to read this? Nah, me neither really. I can’t even be bothered to write it. Even as you’re reading this, I’m feeling the weight of every dumb finger slamming into each key. Yawn. But our lack of interest isn’t entirely down to us. We’re not an inherently lazy generation; often it’s the systems around us are designed for such minimal effort required, that our generation, and those younger than us, have a rapidly declining level of engagement.
In user experience (UX) it’s referred to as ‘low effort’. This, for many designers, is the ‘perfect’ experience in a customer journey. It gets to you from point A to point B as quickly and smoothly as possible, aiming to reduce the rate of ‘drop off’ (people who stop engaging on the journey, because they can’t find what they want, they’re stopped by a paywall, etc). consider Amazons’ 300 million-dollar button the epitome of this; an improved journey made purchases smoother, so that Amazon was able to take over a million dollars extra every day in sales.
It’s the same concept as a regular, in-store experience: if a queue is too long in one store or the management is rude, or I don’t like the music they’re playing, I might leave and take my business elsewhere. There’s healthy competition in the marketplace (so we believe) so if one experience isn’t smooth enough, another one will be more suited. This is often the crux of new, innovative systems, such as Uber and Airbnb: they took a system with a ‘bad’ customer experience, and improved it drastically, killing the competition.
And that’s what we want, right? The world is messy; we have mobile computer technology in our pockets, we see more adverts than ever before, we’re buying more things and engaging with new systems every day, so the quicker we can get through it all, the better?
Well, there are a few counter-arguments. the first became blindingly obvious to me when speaking recently with my little brother. I was asking him about school, and he said nothing interested him; not a huge surprise. He’s pretty damn creative, he just hasn’t realised it yet. I asked him why not, and he said ‘because it’s all the same, it’s not for me’. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant, but then I realised he’s so used to highly curated content; be it Facebook or YouTube etc., he no longer engages with anything he deems ‘out of his bubble’. (I quickly pictured a dystopian future, in which one video style could determine your entire life’s worth of content, all made to order)
Because we’re so used to expensive, well-designed user experiences, our engagement level is at an all-time low. This constant spoon-feeding means we put less physical exertion into thinking about how we do things, so any system that doesn’t give instant gratification or requires a higher investment from us, we will likely drop off and go somewhere else.
We also don’t value it because the concept of supply and demand is so ingrained in our culture. What comes to us so easily, we value as having a high supply- it’s not hard to get it. In our logic, that means it’s going to cost less. And what costs less, is going to be, in most cases, worth less.
This is often referred to as ‘the hunt’; a lack of effort to get something means we don’t enjoy the experience. Someone once said ‘an adventure is the journey, not the destination’, and although this quote mostly resides on 17-year-old girls Tumblr pages, it’s also true when it comes to user experience. We want what we strive to get, what becomes a mission, we value more.
We need to decide when we’re creating systems, ‘how do we balance an ease of a customers journey, while still holding onto some value?’ If our product is expensive, make sure it takes enough time for people to feel it’s valuable, without dropping off from the idea (think, would you buy a house if it only took 5 minutes? Would you trust it?) but equally, I’m not going to fill out your survey for a tin of beans.
So, next time some old folk tell you, ‘oh you kids, you’ve got everything, yet you’re so lazy’, you can honestly just blame it on the system. A lot of our customer experiences have been tailored to make us ‘lazy’ (have you ever just stood in front of a door and expected it to open for you even when you’re meant to push it?). And I know hardly anyone reads these, so if you’ve made it here, feel free to ask me for a free coffee. I know I would’ve bothered to read this.
Pt. 2 coming soon