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Why 'Lazy' is Good for UX

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I love the word lazy. Clearly, right? I wrote a book about it, I built a website around it, and I preach about it every day. I might be obsessed. But how did I get here? Why does that word mean so much to me? Because it gets a bad rap and I love a good comeback story. That’s why I’m working to reframe that infamous ‘L’ word as an asset, especially when it comes to UX design.

I’m going to put my psychology degree to work here for a quick second. Let’s first look at how we process the world around us - on the most basic level, humans have what we call the “lizard brain” which acts as our visceral processor. It makes the most basic (and quick) judgements about our environment and the situations we find ourselves in. It leads to the most straightforward and beneficial action. Another (albeit simplified comparison) way of looking at this is our reflexes. No cognition factors in here, it’s just pure automated, visceral action or reaction. Although it is action, which may be seen as inherently un-lazy, there is no thought about the action, no judgements, no decision-making. It is our body’s basic survival instinct - and it is lazy. That’s a good thing. Our body is making a lazy decision without getting our messy thoughts involved because it wants, nay, needs to act quickly and efficiently. The UX fore-father, Don Norman, in his quintessential book The Design of Everyday Things makes the case that all good UX designers need to account for these visceral reactions in effective design. I aim to reframe lazy as meaning efficient and automatic.

Humans have quick attention spans. Part of this is evolution, part of this is the culture we live in that forces us to multitask and juggle many thoughts at once. We don’t have the luxury of spending too much time making any one decision or completing any one task. The point is, we want our products and experiences to help us make decisions quickly and efficiently- nobody wants to spend thirty minutes trying to find a new litter box on Amazon for our cats. We want to be nudged into finding the right litter box so we can add it to our carts, order it, and move on with our lives. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein write about this extensively in the timeless Nudge, which I highly recommend. We don’t want to struggle with making a decision about the products we buy or the experiences we pursue. We are lazy and want someone to guide us to the right decision. Good designers will recognize this and help to nudge their users to accomplish their goal in the most efficient and frictionless way possible. Lazy design keeps things simple and meets the user where they’re at.

I could go on about lazy design, but I’m going to keep it short, simple, and to the point so you can move on with your day. Our users want to be lazy. That’s not our fault, it’s how we were built. We need to meet our users where they’re at to give them the best experience possible for the their minimal effort. Lazy design is good design.

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