UI is an Abstraction

Entry categories Design
Daughter in a Rocker (1917–1918) painting in high resolution by Henry Lyman Sayen. Original from the Smithsonian Institution. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Just a small thought, but I think an important one for this week. Have you ever thought about why we use apps, websites, and devices? It’s not because we like it – it’s because UI is an abstraction.

We need to know if someone needs something from us.
We want to let a company know about a mistake.
We want a product or service.
We want to be entertained.
We’re hungry.
Cold.
Tired.
Need to be loved.

All UI is an abstraction from intent. It’s the tool we use to convey our needs and desires. The more invisible our UI, the more automatic, the more it matches our mental model, and the more seamless we can make the experience, the closer we get to intent.

The dark side of this however is the addictive “the race to the bottom of the brain-stem” design we’ve seen paraded in both social media and modern newscasts – guiding us into thoughtless, knee-jerk action and emotion. A UI and content model that hijacks intent for profit.

So when designing your UI, consider how you can get closer to the personal touch without resorting to negative or addictive patterns.

Does someone really need your app? Do they have to see your website? Can you make it automatic? Do you need that many fields required?

I’ll bet your favorite app is one that just works, looks great when you have to see the UI, and stays out of your way when you want it to.

UI is an abstraction of what you want and need.

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