Did UX designers ruin fun for efficiency?

I’ve been in Los Angeles for an offsite for the past week. It’s the first one I’m attending post-covid (is post-covid even true? I suppose it’s the first I’m attending post-vaccinated?). It HAS been very nice to get together and workshop in the same room for once and I must admit that workshops are much better in-person. Being in LA also meant I had the opportunity to finally meet some past colleagues from Product, like Allen, who was the ECD at Product and left about the same time as me. I hit it off with right from the start with him so it was really wonderful to get together and spend some time talking about our experiences in this industry.

We started talking about how 10-15 years ago, it seemed like there was a new website that got you really excited and inspired every two weeks. Websites that were visually exciting, had interactions you’d never seen before and utilized technology that was groundbreaking. Now, that rarely - actually never - happens anymore. And unfortunately, I think we, UX designers as a whole, may play a part in that.

You see what was fascinating about some, most to be honest, of these websites is that they didn’t have to justify everything. Certain things were just eye candy and that was perfectly fine - in fact, it was exceptional. That’s what made them special, they were the exception from the normal. That made them stand out and grab attention. We UX designers love to quote things like “god is in the details” and use terms like micro-interactions, we’re also very keen on requiring everything to have a raison d’être.

We want to delete friction. Make it effortless. Remove any “noise”. But thinking about these websites from back then, perhaps it was that noise and friction that made them a treat? Perhaps the beauty in it all is that it wasn’t just served on a plate for you, but that you actually had to do some work in order to be entertained? Like the Beastie Boys perfectly put it, fight for your right to party.

I’m not making the case that we shouldn’t remove friction and make better, more efficient services. I just wish that we had more sites out there that just made me smile for the sake of making me smile.

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