Do one thing

Car traveling west on CA-76

I was driving south on I-5 and a pickup just ahead and to my left signaled they wanted in my lane. I slowed down to let them in and initially, they too hit the brakes expecting to go behind me. I continued to slow, they figured it out and sped up to get over. And that’s when I knew what I was going to make my new year’s resolution.

Like you, I’ve been in this situation many times before. Usually, I make a complete mess of things, speed up, slow down, trying to sync to the mind of my fellow motorist. It never works out and it’s a wonder I don’t end up in an accident. The secret, my wife tells me, is to pick one thing. Speed up or slow down, or you’ll just confuse everyone.

In today’s hectic, results-oriented culture, the allure of multitasking consumes us. We feel a strong need to do everything at once—speed up, slow down, match the rhythm of everyone else around us.

It gets worse creating for the web. I find myself wound up wondering if I should pay a little more attention to some SEO or clean up that messy sidebar or download the latest jQuery plugin that will surely make my website work like magic. I forget about who I’m writing for, what I’m writing for, that I inevitably stop creating all together. I’m back in my car hurtling down the interstate at 66 mph and the guy to the left wants over. Speed up or slow down, but don’t do both, you’ll just confuse everyone.

Complicated interfaces and experiences demand your visitor to put aside their primary task in order to decipher how they must behave in order to interact with your site.

However, as good UX professionals, we focus on our users and their experience. The truck driver began this interaction. Our visitors all want something, we just need to get out of the way. Help them do just one thing, too. Complicated interfaces and experiences rigidly putting designers’ needs first all demand your visitor put aside (at least partially) their primary task in order to decipher how they must behave in order to interact with your site. “Do I speed up here? Slow down? Get over?” The delicate dance with your prospect is confused and more often than not leads to an accident.

Is your shopping cart focused on doing one thing? Or do you have multiple calls to action to “value add?”

Does your content minimize distraction and help your reader concentrate? Or is it the equivalent of a hard bench in a noisy room?

So this new year, I’m resolving to do one thing—for me and my users. And just maybe we’ll figure out how uncomplicated great experiences really are.

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