UX London: Designing from the Inside Out

by Luke Wroblewski June 14, 2009

Dan Saffer's Designing from the Inside Out: Behaviour as the Engine of Product Design talk at UX London 2009 outlined how behavior can serve as a driving factor for form and the mechanics of function in products.

  • For most people, the interface is the product. It’s an outside-in experience
  • It’s easier to focus on form than behavior. Likewise easier to focus on mechanics (how it will work) than how it will behave.
  • Behavior: how the product acts, the tasks the product allows users to do, maximizing the abilities of the product, actions you want to engender through the use of the product itself.
  • The best products: are aesthetically pleasing; are plug & play; have personal or professional value; seem transparent; offer clear affordances/instruction; put functionality on the correct platform; have responsive feedback; use conventions… or do something better; make it difficult to make mistakes; have moments of delight; respect the users time & effort; and are aware of context of use
  • The best way to achieve most of these characteristics is by focusing on behavior. But if the interface is the product, how do we design from the inside out?
  • Behavior can be a major product differentiator and can be a defense against feature-itis
  • People love features: we enjoy comparing products side by side. Companies love features too –they give them something to talk about and market.
  • Features are a poor long -term strategy as they will be built by competitors. Its easy to replicate features but hard to replicate how features behave.
  • Behavior as design research: stop looking for people’s goals. Start looking at motivations, expectations, and actions.
  • Translating goals or (worse) preferences into products results in bad products.
  • Behavior as product structure: how does the system behave when people engage with it? The same feature can fell completely different based on how it responds and how it is accessed.
  • Transitions matter: cannot be well represented through paper documentation. Need prototyping.
  • What activities does the product need to support?
  • What is the product’s core activity? This will determine the “buddah nature” of the application.
  • What behavior do you want to encourage or discourage? Very difficult to change human behavior. Much easier to change the mechanics of the system than behavior.
  • Put the right functionality in the right places. Should features be digital, physical, or both? When & where will the feature be used? What is the feature’s priority? Does it need to be available all the time? How much resources should be spent? Consider ergonomics?
  • Start from the behavior, and then figure out what should control it. The physical form, UI elements on the screen, or even gestures in a space.
  • Behavior drives the form and mechanics.