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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

“Do not make me think” V.S. “Do not make me distracted”

It seems “do not make me think” has become a “common sense” for user experience design, and there are not much people even question about it. Maybe that is because they just do not want to think?

I totally disagree with this “do not make me think” statement. Instead, in my opinion, actually people just do not want to be distracted.

1. People love thinking

Every people love thinking; people cannot even stop thinking for just one minute. If someone do not believe it, try it. Can anyone stop thinking and keep his/her brain totally blank for just one minute? Nope!

Even when people have nothing to think about, he or she will start to think about or day-dreaming about something else. “Thought chatter” is a main function of human. People enjoy thinking of how to solve a puzzle, how to win a chess game, enjoy even just daydreaming what to do this weekend.

So it is not “do not make me think”, but whether the website or app can make me think of something interesting or not. Instead of “do not make me think”, it should be “do not make me think of something stupid, irrelevant, or not interesting at all”.

2. People love the feeling of “being attracted”

When I check in the dictionary, the term attract means “cause to come to a place or participate in a venture by offering something of interest, favorable conditions, or opportunities”; or “cause (someone) to have a liking for or interest in something”.

When a user come to a site or an app, I am sure there are something attracting him/she; without such a value, user could have just left. An e-commerce site might attract users with the merchandise it selling; a SNS site might attract users with the connections and interactions there; a blog site might attract users with its content and stories shared…

Which means, every site or app is offering some value to the users, which is the reason that users have been attracted here, otherwise they could have just left. However, a usability bug or a confusing navigation will just stop them from continue what they are enjoying, what they have been attracted. A usability bug or a UX problem is not contributing to the main attractions on the site or app, but becomes a disturb, an interference, or a distraction. That is what makes people start to lose interest, lose patient and leave the site/app.

3. People have a default priority

There are many online games need people to think a lot; ecommerce sites also need user to think about which product he/she like the most; even a simple media site, people need to think while reading, need to think what to comment, or think about what to post……

People never has a problem with thinking. But by default, there are some major tasks for a site, especially for a user with a specific purpose. So if the thinking is aligning with the major task, users won’t have a problem with that; if it is not, if there are many little irrelevant issues keep coming up, then people will feel annoying, and become unsatisfied.

For example, a young mom wants to shop online a cloth for her 3-year-old little daughter, then this becomes her major task, and it is by default the first priority. To satisfy her first priority, the site should provide a smooth shopping flow. The site also has what she is looking for and present to her after she input her search criteria.

Besides displaying toddler girl clothing suitable for her needs, the site might also recommend some other products related, e.g. shoes, or even toys may also acceptable.

Since Christmas is coming, maybe, then the site is also smartly displaying some Christmas gifts products as well. Which is also OK. As long as everything is inline with the user’s default priority, the user will feel comfortable and acceptable. However, if this priority is messed up and even reversed, people will get mad. Especially when a UX issue, a usability problem, maybe even a tiny thing, which should not happen, becomes a problem, and becomes a task that the user has to solve, has to figure out, then he/she will become mad.

4. People hate being cheated

Sometimes, what makes people mad is not the interface made him/her to think, but it made him/her think in a wrong way. Human brain will automatically assign some meaning, picturing or projection something to the elements on an interface, and has a thinking of a way it should be. But then if it is turn out not the way it is, and people feel that is not as “it should be”, he/she will feel cheated and get mad.

When people’s brain automatically assigns a meaning to visual elements, or a layout, or a flow, it is based on past experiences. For example, a house shape icon has always been used for “home” on navigation, what if a realtor site uses this icon for house listings page? I am sure many people will make mistake and feel cheated.

How many people had the same experience like me, when trying to download something from a site but the junk software download button was just even much bigger, then we turn out downloaded a junk software by mistake? How do you feel with that experience?

5. Human brain can not multitasking

As scientists have revealed, human brain cannot multitask, when people are handling too many tasks at the same time, actually, it is not multitasking, but just keep switching, because human brain can only focus one thing at a time.

Human are not computer or a device, human can only stay focus on one thing at a time, that is why human cannot multitask. Actually, even when a computer handling multitasks, different tasks are sharing the limited memories and calculation power, the computer may become slow and over heat. For a human, multitasking will make human keep switching focus from one to another, hence make the people ineffective, and people will under much higher pressure.

A bad UI, a confusing user flow, will just increase the number of tasks for user to handle, to learn and to find out, as a result, make user’s job ineffective, and make them feel pressure, and sad, or even mad.

So even from a neuroscience point of view, a bad UI is not because it makes user to think, but it forces people to handle other unnecessary tasks. When we say, stay simple, it is to make user stay focus on one task, instead of multitasks.

In all, there is nothing wrong to make users think; but it is really wrong to bring users with extra unnecessary tasks, which against users’ priorities; distract users away from what they are focusing and enjoying.

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