Most people associate the word “design” with “creativity,” so it’s tempting to believe that a successful interface is the result of creative genius. From a holistic perspective, creativity is essential for innovation. However, from a user perspective, creativity just gets in the way.
The best user experience can often be found in the most boring interfaces. Let’s talk about this.
When the internet was “creative”
From the user’s point of view, there were only two eras on the World Wide Web:
- Era before UX
- The post-UX era
In the beginning, WWW stood for “Wild Wild Web”. Then it seemed that there was no rhyme or reason for many design decisions.
Sites like the one above (in fact, it still exists today) were very common in the 1990s. This “creative” design was the norm, but we didn’t care. The internet was new and exciting. Finding links among the sea of animated GIFs was part of the fun.
UX then existed to experience the world through this new medium. We just wanted the Internet, and we did not specify in what form we wanted it.
But this did not last long.
A little bit of UX
The only thing that worried us as users was the possibility to investigate The Internet. Lycos helped meet this demand.
Lycos was a little awkward and slow and had a lot of things that were irrelevant to our needs, but that didn’t matter. He allowed us to see the world as we asked.
Google soon came along. It was simple and boring. and there was so much empty space! What were they thinking about?
When we first visited Google, we looked at the screen, waiting for the “rest of the page” to load. We are used to getting more links, images and pictures. We expected more creativity, but it didn’t come.
It didn’t take long to realize that we didn’t need all these extra things. If we want to find something on the Internet, we just go to Google and find it … really, really fast. No hassle, no distractions, no waiting. We can simply enter whatever we want into the search box and Google will find the information that is most relevant and useful to us.
For many, this was the first meeting with design having great user experience. Google’s user-centric approach is the main reason why we have long forgotten about Lycos and other alternatives. Google understood our needs and concerns before we even knew about them.
Creativity is bad for interface design
Many people become designers because they want to be creative. This is a perfectly valid motive for most design industries, but not for user interface design. Users don’t visit your site to admire your creativity. They come there to solve a problem.
If this does not help your user in solving his problem, then this is simply an obstacle in his path.
Obviously, there are many more factors that have contributed to Google’s success than its minimalist design, but that doesn’t change the point. Take a look at all of your favorite products today and you’ll notice that most of them have one thing in common: a boring interface.
We see the same interface patterns used over and over again. The biggest inconsistency we find in products is in their branding, where creative expression is constantly present. Otherwise, the products are shaped according to our expectations of how everything should look and function.
Science says averaged values are beautiful
Research has shown that we find average faces to be the most attractive. In this case, the average does not mean 5 out of 10 on the beauty scale. This means the mathematical averaging of facial features, including the distance between the eyes, the position of the nose and mouth, etc.
We find these faces the most attractive because they are easier for our brain to process.
It’s the same with UX / UI design.
From the era of web design to UX, we’ve seen websites become more and more alike as standard web conventions have been formed and accepted. Some of these include:
- Call-to-action buttons above the fold
- Search bar located in the header
- Logo located in the upper left corner or top center of the page
- Social media icons located in the footer
Most websites follow these conventions, which shapes the expectations of users for the rest of the sites. Breaking these conventions for the sake of “creativity” only leads to confusion. The more average your design is, the less time it takes for users to process it.
How to use this creative energy
The internet is getting closer and closer to a common design language. The latest design trend is to have no design at all. Minimalism is at the forefront of modern user interface design.
Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to take away
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Some are discouraged by the news. Companies are increasingly adopting design systems that nearly exclude a designer’s ability to express their creativity. But it’s good. With less emphasis on the “I” (interface) in the acronym for “UI”, designers have more time to focus on the “U” (user). In the end, the user is what really matters.
Conclusion: good UX = boring interface
Stick to being boring. Fight the urge to get creative. If you want your product to stand out from the rest, then keep your design casual and average. The only way to really stand out is to break up for the sake of your user. Use creative energy to focus better on solving his problems than anyone else.
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