What’s the first thing that you notice when you look at this picture? Besides the fact that they’re crayons. There is something infinitely more important to our conversation. There is something that is at the absolute root of the user experience/user interface conversation that can be identified using these children’s playthings. Can’t figure it out? I’ll help.
What’s the point of this whole thing? Why am I mentioning this on a blog that talks all about technology and business? Well, the point is that crayons…are you ready for this… are just made wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong. Stick with me through this and you’ll see how this relates to technology. The piece of paper that wraps the crayon is designed for two major purposes. The first is that they keep our hands clean and the second is that they give us the name of the color. This is the purpose of the piece of paper that covers crayons. And yet, it is fundamentally flawed.
Second, labeling. If you’re relying on that peel to tell you the crayons color, you will undoubtedly be frustrated when that peel is gone. If the label is the only way you have of telling you what to do, then what will you do when that label is gone.
I know. You’re still wondering what the hell this has to do with technology. First, getting rid of the peel. While kids might peel the crayon, this is not something they inherently like to do. It’s akin to an OCD habit. They HAVE to peel the crayon to get to the goods. So by supplying something that keeps their hands clean (temporarily) you are actually adding an annoying and unnecessary layer to the process. This is exactly in line with far to many web/software/app developers. Adding a fancy wrapping doesn’t change the product within. In fact, it just frustrates the user. Have you ever watched a kid NOT be able to peel a crayon. It’s not pretty. Have you ever seen a user unable to crack through all the pretty aesthetics and packaging of an app? Have you ever been that user? It’s not pretty, is it?
Labeling. I hate apps that walk me through all the things I can do with their app. You know the app I’m talking to you about. It has an overlay the first time that you use it that shows you the million different ways you can swipe and all the things you can click/tap/slide to make something happen. Number one, everyone (and I mean everyone) just plows through those “tutorials” because an app should not require a tutorial. So we assume that the app will be easy enough to use once we start playing with it. So, if your app is simple enough then it doesn’t require a silly tutorial. And if your app is so complicated that the user experience is ruined without a tutorial? Well, that’s worse. Your app is too complicated. Unless we’re talking one of the Adobe projects, one of the primary purposes of apps is to make things easy. Think back to the crayon, post-peel removal. If you didn’t know the color before, how can you possibly figure it out now?
Forget the peel. You’re wasting everyone’s time. No one wants a pretty interface that doesn’t work. No one wants to wade through the waters of pleasing aesthetics just to get to what they want to do. Is there a place for beauty in development and design? Absolutely. But let’s save that for part three.