Credit Robert Clemens via Flickr. CC Attribution No Derivatives

Convenience has been the goal of many a user experience for a long time. It’s become one of the default objectives when designing new products and services and optimising existing ones.

But is convenience all upside? What if we question the perpetual focus on ease of use? How might we inject some and, say it quietly, create a little friction?

Is convenience all good?

Products are optimised to deliver on KPIs which most often require a seamless user experience.

It might be to increase time spent using a product (engagement) or it might be to increase sales (conversion) among other possible KPIs. Whatever it is, the more easily someone can use a product the more likely it is that the KPIs will be achieved.

But is a seamless experience really all good? Sure, it benefits the product owner but at at what cost to the user?

Might it be possible that PayPal or Square making it easier to spend money puts users at greater risk of going into debt?

Might it be possible that Uber making it easier for us to get a ride makes us less likely to walk and get exercise?

Might it be possible that push notifications distract us from the meaningful conversations we have with people IRL?

Convenience removes the friction from our experience of using products and services. When something is more convenient, it becomes easier. We have fewer jarring experiences. We move seamlessly from one state to another. We don’t have to problem solve and figure how something should be done; we’re guided through without having to think too hard.

The for tension

ten·sion: ˈtenSHən/ noun “mental or emotional strain”

When we experience a degree of mental or emotional strain we break state and prepare to counter the stress we face. It forces us to engage our mind and figure out how best to overcome the strain we are under.

Tension puts us in a heightened state of awareness. We are more likely to guide our own thoughts and actions rather than comply with a flow laid out by someone else.

Might it be possible that tension makes us more aware of what we are doing?

Might it be possible that tension makes us more considered in our choices?

Might it be possible that tension makes us more intentional in our actions?

Creating some positive tension

Irrespective of intent, there are unintended consequences to our actions. Friction- and tension-free may mean ‘better’ for one person but they may mean ‘mindless action’ for another.

There are positives to having some tension and friction in our lives. It takes us out of our comfort zone and puts us in a heightened state of awareness. It makes us mindful of what’s going on and more likely and able to make conscious decisions about what we’re doing.

We will each be the best judge of when to choose convenience and avoid friction. We will have to decide how we can make tension a positive experience.

Here are a few few thought starters for putting some friction and tension back into our lives:

We could choose to go to the ATM and pay cash for everything.

We could choose to walk or cycle even when it rains.

We could choose to turn off push notifications (or even ditch our smartphones altogether).

I take no responsibilities for the consequences 🙂

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