I believe there’s huge potential for user experiences to adapt to the “current” stage in people’s lives, whatever term “current” can be applied to. Context-aware recommendations for content, services, experiences and more is a field that’s bound to explode. Companies, societies, and individuals are cropping up to serve this use-case of curating/filtering and making people aware of things when apt/necessary.
While technically it seems complicated and difficult (because it’s hard to know someone’s current state of being), I believe there’s scope for lots of the existing user experiences to take advantage of “currency” in someone’s life.
As time progresses, your contacts change
For example, I believe email clients could be improved simply by creating temporary contact clusters for months or for different projects. When the email client senses that I’ve received >1 email message or sent > 1 message to a contact (other than a reply-chain), it’s likely that this person could be labeled a contact, and should show up in the AutoComplete. As months progress and you move from one project/client to another, the core set of contacts that you deal with change, and your autocomplete/addressability should dynamically reflect that. Over time, if the system made you aware of these changes in communication, that would be stellar.
As a sidenote, I have no idea why I can’t search through recent contacts, or search email in a sidebar, or really do much of anything when I’m in Compose Email mode. I can’t imagine that I’m the only person that often needs to reference a snippet or content in a past conversation in order to convey something in a new email. Currently, this is only possible by opening two tabs or if the past conversation was in the same thread. At the very minimum, I should be able to find recent contacts in a sidebar or something.
Proposed email interface
Getting back to the point of this post, I hope that we’re not alone or martyrs at BettrAt in suggesting that time-based context awareness is a vitally important mechanism to help deal with information overload.
That choice of name – and the function, and its simple realisation in a sturdy button with a good action – is a deft bit of design, and for me, the ability to produce deft, including through good copy, is one of the key differentiating factors setting apart good designers from average.
Is it worth it to spend the extra time/effort/mental energy to design differentiated stuff for the tasks people are trying to accomplish? I suspect many people that might read this are already Designer or Dschool students, so they’ll say “yes,” but just to support the argument:
It increases the average price point of the toaster (sometimes with seemingly no upper bound)
It associates the brand of the toaster with products that are well thought through — “I loved this toaster, so I’ll probably also love Breville’s ________.
In the design of “everyday” products, furnishing with smart touches and friendly copy like “a bit more” is a continuous reminder of the device’s usefulness. I marvel at how much daily interactions with products that people have already purchased contributes to a strong brand. For instance, continuous interactions (e.g. Brad Feld’s “Month of Mac”) with well designed Apple products clearly just drive the motivation to buy more Apple products without testing them out. It’s almost as if the device carries the brand to some holy level where the consumer says “I’m sure that this has been thought through, and I’ll pay for it without blinking an eye”
I hardly think that needs to be more economic justification for good design. That said, my next post will be one that’s more actionable on Task oriented and Process Oriented design.