Thursday, December 13, 2007

Designing For Flow

Getting absorbed in a website ...

"In web design, when we think about flow we usually think about “task flows” or “flow charts” but there’s another type of flow that we should keep in mind. It’s that feeling of complete absorption when you’re engaged in something you love to do without being disrupted by anxiety or boredom caused by tasks that are confusing, repetitive or overly taxing.

Flow, as a mental state, was first proposed by psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and is characterized by a distorted sense of time, a lack of self-consciousness, and complete engagement in the task at hand. Software engineers might feel it when they’re writing code, gamers might feel it when playing Guitar Hero III, Christopher Cross felt it when he went sailing. For designers, it’s exactly the feeling we hope to promote in the people who use our sites.

How do we create sites that inspire that feeling? Well, it starts with a site that solves a challenging problem and is complex enough to require a certain amount of learning by the user. The goal should not necessarily be to create a simple site. The goal should be to create a site that feels painless to use no matter how complex it really is. But wait, you might be thinking, hasn’t there been a simplicity movement in web design over the last few years? Yes, but there’s a learning curve for any site that seeks to solve a complex problem. We shouldn’t confuse simplicity with a desire to avoid needless complexity.

The way to make the complex feel painless is to design with flow in mind. By designing a site that is fluid and intuitive and inspires flow, you help new users get up-to-speed more quickly, reduce the chance that existing users leave your site to switch to another and create users that evangelize your site to other people. That results in more users, increased activity, and greater awareness of your site."    (Continued via A List Apart)    [Usability Resources]

Flow - Usability, User Interface Design



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