Mindful Design – Part 1
We, designers, always strive to create products and experiences that meet the needs of intended audience. That’s basically the fundamentals of good UX – user’s needs, pain points, behaviours and expectations. But what if we can do better than that? What if we designed products and experiences that are not only user-centric but serve a higher purpose?
In these Mindful Design series (yes, there will be more than one article) I will be exploring how mindfulness principles can be applied in a designer’s workflow.
I have always been passionate about living life in a healthy and balanced way. Once I discovered mindfulness and started practising it regularly, my life positively changed.
First things first, what exactly is mindfulness?
Here’s a definition from mindful.org:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Interesting, right? It’s the basic human ability to be present. It’s already part of us and always has been. So why is it more and more difficult to be fully present? I’m sure you can sense where I’m going with this.
Our phones are with us 24/7. We have flat screen TVs, iPads on the go, smartwatches, voice assistants. The list is only growing. We are constantly distracted by technology, leaving very little time to check-in with ourselves, observe how we feel, slow down and actually have some quality, uninterrupted time with our family. Checking latest notification while catching up with friends? Been there, done that. That’s why, as a designer and mindfulness advocate, I decided to do an experiment - give up social media for some time and see what happens.
There are digital products however that we can’t run away from and we use them on a daily basis because it’s better, faster, more convenient. We manage our money, businesses and keep in touch with friends and family. I’m sure nobody would like to go back to telegrams and arranging appointments with a clerk to take out some cash. Having said that, we need some balance between these old, inflexible ways and new, constantly-seeking-attention products.
This is where Mindful Design comes in.
There is an emerging need for digital products to be more mindful, or even respectful, of our private lives. A new trend has recently started in Silicon Valley and it’s called digital wellbeing. Finally, big companies are acknowledging screen addiction as a problem and accepting their responsibility to do something about it. Quite recently Apple unveiled new features which will encourage users to set clear boundaries with their devices. Google is releasing a new system update called Android 9 Pie with a whole list of features focusing entirely on digital wellbeing. Another promising product is Thrive App (for now, only available on Android devices) which has been launched by Arianna Huffington’s Thrive team. This app allows you to put your phone in “thrive mode” which essentially is the same as if you were to go on a digital detox. Numerous times a day, whenever suits you.
Thankfully, there are more and more signs that the industry is ready to make a positive change. Having said that, I strongly believe that we, designers, also have a huge responsibility to design experiences that foster well-being and mindfulness rather than addiction and psychological issues. I know, it’s not easy to shift business-focused attitude. A lot of products are driven by the profit they make, and to make more profit, you need more users, subscriptions, features and so on. But let me tell you this: nothing ever good comes out of the selfish approach and motivation to hit numbers. If the app looks shiny and cool at first glance, sure I’ll try it out, but if it doesn’t serve my needs, creates distractions and constantly annoys me, I’ll get rid of it in a blink of an eye.
Designers, let’s challenge businesses we work with to really think about the impact products make on users’ digital wellbeing. In the long term, customer loyalty is the most important metric you should be measuring and I strongly believe that mindful design is the way forward.
But what exactly is Mindful Design?
Good design is centred around a user and empowers them to complete an action in the most intuitive way. Mindfulness focuses on being right here, right now, distraction-free and enjoying the present moment.
If we combine these two principles we get a pretty accurate definition of Mindful Design.
Mindful Design is a human-centred approach to create products which respect user’s privacy, time and attention as well as enhance the state of optimum human experience.
The primary intention is no longer getting more users by designing flashy interfaces and addictive features. The true purpose of a mindful product is to serve, to provide meaningful experiences and to respect the user.
Although there are no strict rules or checklists on how to design mindfully, in the next series I will be sharing principles for Mindful Design. Until then, I invite every designer to really stop and think about what impact your solution is going to have on the audience. Is it mindlessly engaging the user without considering the psychological cost or actually serving a true purpose?