Am I Getting Too Old For This Sh*t?

When it comes to creativity, there’s one thing I really hate, and it’s stubbornness, which I often find when meeting people who’ve worked in the industry for too long. One of my biggest fears is becoming one of these stubborn old-fashioned guys.

My father was a technophobe. He had never understood smartphones and had an old Nokia while other people sold their iPhone 5 to buy the new iPhone 6. The thing is, my father wasn’t being technophobic because he was stupid, it was because he was too old for it. Like the saying goes: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, I guess you can’t teach the old man how to use new smartphones.

 

Old Dogs And New Trends

As a UX designer who also designs UI, I’m frequently asked to have a UX review to decide if something is designed well or not. The decision I’m having is based on my knowledge and experience, but mainly it is based on my personal taste. Every once in a while I stumble upon a design which is based on the right principles, but just doesn’t seem right to me. But who said I’m right?

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a web design that was great, as a basic idea, but I found it too naive and childish – It was too colorful and a bit “too happy” in my opinion. After I’ve finished my review I was still a bit confused, because I couldn’t point the bad part in the design, besides my taste. I mean, it did get the user from point A to B, it had a good structure, and it seemed like it would make the user happy.

That feeling haven’t left my head ever since. It made me think that maybe that design is actually really good and I’m just being a stubborn minimalistic-design-douchebag. I mean, maybe I’m locked on my set of rules based on style principles dictated by companies like Apple and Google, and can’t accept other ways of design.

 

DogPhone
See? An OLD phone.

Am I Getting Old?

Let’s take snapchat for example, I don’t have any idea what really happens there. I know I can apply funny filters on my face and make myself look like a puppy or a princess, but I also know there’s a lot of other stuff in there, like “stories” or “memories” (for example – This morning, I think I accidentally posted a selfie from the bathroom to the whole world to see, instead of directly to a friend). I mean, I’m familiar with Facebook’s timeline – you post something, you get feedback and it’s all saved under your profile. Snapchat is just not understandable to me. I just feel too old to get this.

 All these getting old thoughts made me realize – our users are going to be the young generation – the people who understand Snapchat and don’t know what the floppy “save” icon stands for, and that really changes the game. I know what I like and what I’m looking for in the products I use, but I have absolutely no clue what Snapchat users are looking for. Do they really need notes to arrange their thoughts, or do they need an app that records them and transforms their thoughts into a talking rabbit animation?

Remember the old dog I was talking about?

Open mind as a key to success

Of course, if you develop a habit-forming-product, your users’ habits become what your product dictates them, but generally you don’t develop a habit-forming-product, so you really have to learn and have a deep research about your users. As I progress in my work I understand I have to know to pick my fights. Sometimes an unusual design is stupid, but sometimes it is the new design trend, and if it’s a new design trend I need to learn and acknowledge it. You don’t want to be the person who said the new successful design trend is shit.

I think the first step of understanding the new trend is figuring out what is its purpose. If it’s about design – what does it stand for? What is it supposed to make the user feel?

After we understood the purpose, we need to find out how is the trend supposed to serve its purpose. What motives does it use? Is there a research to support it?

The last step is, of course, try to think if this trend succeeds at its task? If it does, it’s probably a good one.

To sum it up, our world is changing. New trends come and go and if we want to reach our users in the best way we have to learn what they are experiencing these days, and not what we experienced when we were at their place.

 

Do you remember an example of a trend you didn’t get or a product that made you feel old? Tell me about it in the comments!

 


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19 thoughts on “Am I Getting Too Old For This Sh*t?

  1. +1 for Snapchat. I get it, but hate using it because of how unintuitive the navigation patterns are.. Also, the type of content shared there just doesn’t seem valuable to me/my time.. perhaps I’m following all the wrong folks though.

    UI review is difficult, especially coming from a more analytical/research driven UX background! I tend to lean heavily on best practices in critiques and leave the visual polish up to the designer themselves or judge it based on the target demo.

  2. This kind of “getting old” is scary, but it is coming. Building software for people who knows nothing but Snapchat makes me sad. I suppose I will die as a minimalistic-design-douchebag. I love those old phones.

  3. As a designer with 15+ years experience, I’ve seen so many trends come and go. Good design principles stand the test of time. Everyone revels in Apple as having the best design and its no secret Ives is overly influenced by Braun products from the ’50s.

    I think the longevity of some of the services (ie: Snapchat) are sketchy at best, bad UI, horrid UX and no real payoff for using the app. With Instagram introducing the new features that are basically Snapchat with a somewhat more refined user flow the others will slowly die as will native apps.

    1. @Jeff Haha, remember MySpace? Business leaders and designers were actually starting to question if “Ugly Design” was a thing, and if maybe we should start adopting it. But then Facebook. THANK GOD. Can’t wait to see what Snapchat’s Facebook moment will be…

      What honestly worries me though, is losing touch with value. When Twitter came out, I ate it up— LOVED IT. Many of my older friends were clueless, they simply could not understand what the draw was. I found myself evangelizing it to them, but to no avail. Now, just like Omri, I feel exactly like those older clueless friends when someone tries to get me to use Snapchat. I’m absolutely clueless about Snapchat. Why would anyone use this service when you could simply text, or go on twitter?

      I can force myself to learn new design patterns and new design trends, but how the hell do I force myself to value something, or how do I force myself to understand someone else’s perceived value of some new thing? That scare’s me shitless, because as a product designer, if you can’t figure out what’s valuable to someone, then you gotta pack your back and head home. Yes I know, doing your homework and user research is key and will help, but it can go only so far. There’s a point at which you feel like you’re on the outside, and that terrified me.

    2. “I think the longevity of some of the services (ie: Snapchat) are sketchy at best, bad UI, horrid UX and no real payoff for using the app. ”

      100m daily active users – either that means that UX/UI means nothing or the UX is right but you don’t get it – can’t be neither

  4. Best analysis i’ve seen of Snapchat’s UX is that it’s remained unintuitive to drive older users away, and to retain a younger userbase. Now, I don’t know if that’s necessarily intentional, but it seems to have worked. Think of it as akin to a game – you get enjoyment from figuring things out, and you can show-off to your friends by your mastery of it. It probably wouldn’t have the same interest if old fogeys like me could use it easily!

  5. I think it’s worth mentioning the distinct difference between design principals and design trends. The former have been proven over decades of use while the latter are typically based on elusive cultural fixations. As a designer, you shouldn’t feel pressured to emulate a trend simply because it’s prevalent and easy to produce. That being said, context and audience are key, so designing something that feels like Snapchat is probably the right execution on a project where the audience is predominantly Snapchat users.

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