Interactive systems like websites and apps are best designed as a flow. But it is very easy to lapse back into designing them as a series of ‘moments’ made up of static screen. Wireframes and design concepts are still predominantly created as flat files. As a designer you work on one state at a time, which can lead to a kind of tunnel vision in which each screen is honed in isolation from the rest of the task flow, leading to a disjointed user experience.
Ryan Singer’s deceptively simple suggestion to combat this is to think of the interface as a set of jobs, each with a beginning, middle and end. It’s a simple concept that’s easy to grasp and to keep in mind while designing each step in that journey.
Although it’s not mentioned in Ryan’s post, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that, just like a job well-done, having a clear beginning, middle and end is also the essence of a good story. Storytelling and designing for emotion are gaining traction in interaction design. As a user, though, I find some of their manifestations crude and heavy-handed. There is a tendency to try too hard, manufacturing emotion and telling me how I should feel like some annoyingly perky user-experience cheerleader. A good storyteller doesn’t tell you how to feel and neither should a good interface. Perhaps if we craft a strong beginning, middle and end to our user interactions, by designing jobs not screens, the emotion will take care of itself.