Good design is the answer

What's the question, you ask. I have a number of questions in mind today for which that is the answer. How do you make learning more effective? Good design. What is a component of good gamification? Good design. What gets overlooked as the secret sauce of many successful ventures? Well, you get the point. Good design is at the heart of good experiences. And when we are talking about business issues, good design can lead to really good business.

I recently read this little article from MarketWatch in which they talk about the fact that Starbucks has more customer money on cards than many banks have in deposits. Now there are a number of reasons for this. For one, Starbucks gift cards are purchased in vast quantities by individuals and organizations for holiday gifts, promotions, and eeek gamification rewards. These cards may sit idle while Starbucks gets to sit on the cash. But there's another reason that I can talk about from personal experience. They just make it easy for me to give them my money.

No app is perfect but my Starbucks app makes it easy for me to pay them using my phone which is likely already close at hand. I don't have to fumble around in my pre-caffienated state looking for my wallet or money or counting change. I just hold up my phone and go ... if I even get in line. Most days now, I order from the cushy comfort of my bus seat. As I am approaching the bus terminal I can start my order, re-order a recent selection, customize my order, look at specials and more as I ride. Once the bus arrives and I step off I can click Order and by the time I walk the approximately two blocks to my designated location, the barista is handing me my beverage. It's not the coffee I'm addicted to, it's the good design of the experience in the same way that Amazon's one-click shopping makes it ever so easy to place an order.

This is a core part of BJ Fogg's Behavior Model in which he says that three things must converge for a behavior to happen -- motivation, ability, and a trigger. You can read more about the ability piece of Fogg's model here, but the piece that applies to today's thoughts is that if you make things easier for people to do something you increase the likelihood of them doing it. As far as learning goes, it is necessary to have learners engage in some struggle and challenge to learn the skills or concepts you are helping them to learn but that doesn't mean you need to make them struggle with the whole learning experience.

This got me to thinking about how difficult we sometimes make it for our learners and audience members because we don't keep checking and updating our designs to make sure they are working for those we are trying to serve. How many hoops do they have to jump through to even get to the content in many systems? Is it easy to figure out what to do? Do we present the material in bite-sized chunks or dump the entire buffet table on them at once? Do we give them options to move through the content at their own speed and pathway? Do we make the pathway to mastery clear and provide them with timely and useful feedback? I could go on and on, but I think you see where I'm going.

So as you go through your day today, try and take notice of the design of things. Ideas for improving your own designs can be found everywhere. Let me know what you find.