It's human nature to be attracted to or seduced by shiny things. And the world of interactive design, we are constantly presented with shiny things.
In the world I work in, the world of interactive design, we are constantly presented with shiny things. They're often difficult to resist, for reasons I'll explain, but ultimately should be second-guessed.
It's Only Human Nature
It's human nature to be attracted to or seduced by shiny things. We see something we like — we want it.
I remember when fan brushes were introduced to the art world. Fan brushes offered the guarantee that you too could paint perfect “happy little trees” and “happy little clouds,” just like the master Bob Ross. And why wouldn’t we all want to run right out and buy these fan brushes so we could paint our perfect trees and clouds?
I'll tell you why. Because it's a facade. It's a veneer avoiding the real challenge —painting the trees and clouds as you see them through your artist's eye and not trying to replicate what you've seen or been told is the perfect, happy little tree.
The thing about shiny things is they offer the promise of payout without the hard work.
This is not a creative process. This is cheating. And cheating will only get you so far, until your number finally gets called and you have to actually start doing the hard work.
The urge to latch on to the delivery mechanism, or the platform, or the technique must be avoided. You don't want to try to fit yourself into the box you've pre-selected because you had a human reaction to seeing something somewhere else, liking it, and wanting it for yourself. This can stunt what should be a rewarding creative and strategic process.
The things we think we want so desperately the minute we see them are in part because they are “new” experiences. Part of what makes them “shiny” is the very newness of them, and this is directly connected to how your brain works. One of the problems with this as valid justification for action is that what is new or novel to you, it not likely new or novel for your target audiences.
We should stop and ask ourselves if we are attracted to a solution because it has seduced us with its “newness.”
All these “feels” aren't coming from people simply because they lack creative and strategic sophistication. They are coming from your lizard brain, and if we were in a desert and fighting for survival of our tribe, there would be no problem if we all freaked out when we spotted the oasis in the distance. It would be new, and glimmering, and it would SAVE US. Because — water, shelter, food. But this isn't the desert — this is the web, and we are trying to dig deeper and plow forward to new ideas, strategies, and solutions.
So Ask the Hard Questions
While understanding what humans respond positively to is important, it should not drive your strategic efforts.
There's a reason we start our client engagements out by asking lots of questions. We need to ask those questions to come to a solution that matters, that will last, and that will be substantial. If we assume we know the answers before we've asked the questions, we are severely limiting our ability to create new things, and to arrive at meaningful solutions.
If the client tells us ahead of time they want lots of fluffy little clouds so please bring our fan brushes, and let's get this thing done fast and cheap — we will immediately throw a million red flags in the air. You should as well.
Clayton Christensen, currently a professor at Harvard Business School, does a wonderful job of explaining how important questions are:
“Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven't asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question — you have to want to know — in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.”
I caution us all to beware the shiny things, whether it's scroll jacking or social integrations, live chat or personalization. They often prevent us from asking the hard questions that will reveal the real treasure we seek — the answers.