Disruption, not the tech type that changes industry, but the “hey you got a minute?” or “Hey, this is your gamifying app (or actual game) here, can you stop what you’re doing and use me?” is as fatal to productivity of creative people, be they artists, musicians or engineers.
If you are a creative type, you might already understand that the altered mental state you reach is one of crystalized concentration. If not, then trust us on this: interrupting a person when in the state of creative “flow” (or whatever those of you that have given a name call it) can be devastating to productivity as much as a hard drive that dies without having a backup. I am currently reading a really good book that touches on concentration as a part of it called “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning” by Andy Hunt [@PragmaticAndy] (More on that later or in some other post…)
If uninterrupted time to focus is known to be such a boon to productivity, then why must every app (and their crappy “lite” version) automatically load itself into the notification center of your platform?
When did this constant disruption of our life by our apps and their needy companies — like children who find the worst time to interrupt conversations — become acceptable? I could trace it to many components, starting with SMS & Email or even further back to phone calls. But at least with those, there was a person on the other end that wanted our attention.
I have told my friends that the medium of communication determines its priority in my queue to control interruptions as much as teach them which channels to use depending on priority. The highest priority is a phone or video call. For friends I will answer even if lightly in a focused zone, and for business clients, I will answer right away. If I don’t answer I will call back at a reasonable hour as long as you leave a message letting me know why you called. No message: no call back. Calling me repeatedly within minutes can get you in the blacklist without a good reason—possibly permanently, or possibly until the next time I see you.
Next is SMS: to me means “answer when you can.” A lot of people these days don’t seem to get this idea.
If the message has important content: email it. For information that I’m not going to use immediately, I’m not about to search SMSes for an important piece of info, like the address to a meeting next week: email that.
But let’s get back to automated disruptions. If I set a calendar event, I wanted to be reminded: I took action. If I wanted to schedule time to play a game, I might put a reminder in. What I do not want, or need, is a message at 12 noon on a weekday reminding me “compete with my friends” from games and other apps that monetize attention and/or game-ify activity. Apps that do that get silenced. And yes, it’s simple to silence them, but why should users have to manage disruptions? Shouldn’t apps leave you alone, and MAYBE ask if you want them to remind you at certain times of day? It seems to respect the user’s time more, and not the developer’s bottom line.
The same thing goes for Apps that pop up a dialog box upon launch asking you to give them 5 stars. You know what I think of that? “F U… you lose a star in UX because you value your apps rep more than making your app get out of a users way.
Seriously, to any Dev that still uses modal dialogs things that don’t need to be modal, I say: read any decent UI/UX book. The number one rule: is “get out of the user’s way” — this, as previously mentioned on my blog — is why Microsoft’s paper clip was so reviled. A friend of mine jokes, the MS paperclip should have said something like, “It looks like you are trying to get some ideas written down. Would you like me to fuck that up for you?”
Anyway, next up is app in-stability which is the ultimate in user interruption (Like OS X 10.10.x consistently flakey network stack which can even cause kernel panics on some network errors when apps that seize up on the stack. I’m looking at you Mail). Next, settings reversions: I have about 3 “ghost” bluetooth devices that OS X 10.10.x refuses to delete, which also means that connecting to any BT device is hit and miss. The only workaround it to restart. This again kills productivity. I WAS going to work on designing something yesterday only to have a KP derail that. By the time I restarted and checked the cause (OS X networking) the time and inspiration to work was gone. I realize I could have worked for 15 minutes, but I know that the mental shift I spoke of earlier takes at least 10–30 minutes to get into for me.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m sick of the path the Apple and the rest of the industry is taking. Everyone talks a good game about making a great product, but it seems as if all the big players don’t know what that means anymore. This could turn around, and there are some real gems out there, but they are the outliers now and not the trend. Sad.
Thanks for letting me rant and take up some of your time.