Run past the finish line

When I used to run cross country in high school, one of the things our coach taught us was to “run past the finish line”. What this meant was that we were to picture the finish line 10 yards past the real finish line. As a matter of fact, she would always stand there at the revised finish line and scream at us until we bolted past her . The reason for this was that she wanted us to finish the race strong and to not slow down before the finish line.

So what does this have to do with interface design? A lot, really. I see so many web sites and software applications that let you accomplish your task and then completely kick you to the curb, not anticipating that you most likely want to do something with the “thing” you just bought/created/etc.

For example, I recently tried out Screen Flow, which is a screen recording program that allows you to create amazing product demos and tutorials. I think Screen Flow is an amazing, best-of-class product. Really. It allowed me to create a great demo with ease. But then I needed to get the movie into a web page. Surely, there must be an export feature that sets this up for you? Nope. Nada (at least that I could not find it). So there I was, with a movie file and just no idea how to integrate it into my web page. This lack of an export feature made the experience frustrating, even though the software was amazing at what it did. Ironically, it would probably take a programmer a few minutes to add this feature.

Another example that comes to mind is my old Motorola Q phone. It had a feature that allowed me to connect it to my laptop and use it as a wireless modem (something the iPhone still cant do). This was an awesome feature, but incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to set up. Fortunately, an enterprising programmer saw an opportunity and created a program that simply set this up for you and charged $34 for it (which was totally worth it). Its funny to me that Verizon did all the heavy lifting but because they did not do the last 1% of the work, all the functionality was lost to their customers.

So the next time you are designing a feature, move the finish line a few yards past the “real” finish line; ask yourself “what’s will the user want to do next?”. Instead of “kicking them to the curb”, roll out the red carpet.