The value of adding a certain amount of friction to our products

In The Value of Inconvenient Design Jesse Weaver discusses the role of user friction in design — the things that slow us down from getting a task done — and how the goal is not to remove all friction from our product flows:

The friction of the checkout process provides a check against impulse purchases and overspending. In a world where many people struggle to manage their money, these small barriers can be critical to maintaining financial balance. While the market would dictate that it’s not Amazon’s job to help its customers control their spending, lowering the barrier to impulse purchases could have a net negative effect on the value people get from Amazon’s service. The Dash button, for example, eliminates so much friction that customers may not even know how much they’re spending until after they’ve completed a purchase. In light of this, Amazon Dash was recently deemed illegal in Germany for violating consumer protection laws.

If you’re interested in the topic of “frictionless design”, here is some related reading. Clive Thompson digs into software that aims to add friction to our lives in his Wired essay We Need Software to Help Us Slow Down, Not Speed Up:

It’s certainly possible to slow our software, and thereby ourselves. But it’ll happen only when we become too unsettled by the speed of our journey.

Here is Chris Palmieri in A Practice of Ethics:

But some friction is borne of respect, when we present information about the choices available to users and help them make better decisions. An emailed invoice could remind a customer they were paying for a service they no longer use. A checkbox could assure a user of their current content privacy settings before posting a sensitive photo. Recognition of a past purchase can save a customer the hassle of having to return a book they already have, or confirm that they are re-buying exactly the same shampoo.

And Andrew Grimes in Meta-Moments: Thoughtfulness by Design:

Meta-moments can provide us with space to interpret, understand, and add meaning to our experiences. A little friction in our flow is all we need. A roadblock must be overcome. A speed bump must be negotiated. A diversion must be navigated. Each of these cases involves our attention in a thoughtful way. Our level of engagement deepens. We have an experience we can remember.

In short, not all friction is bad…