Decisions Suck.

The Future: Anticipatory Design.

Technology has made it so that we can find nearly anything we want without having to move off of the couch. But with great power comes great consequences…decision making.

Just earlier today I was looking into moving our family Yosemite camping trip somewhere else due to the plague scare. So I got online and began my search. The decisions were endless. First off, where should we go? I don’t know! I haven’t the slightest idea! And worst yet, the decisions are endless. It took a good two hours before I was able to find a campsite that fit my requirements: 1) It had to be over labor day weekend 2) It couldn’t be too far from home. I mean, how hard could that possibly be!?! Clearly harder than one would think. And in the end, I’m not even sure if I made the right choice. Why? Simple Decision Fatigue. Honestly, it could very well be the lamest campsite in the world but at that point, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to have something booked and be done with it.

So how do we as designers solve for this? It’s as if it’s been forgotten that the ultimate purpose of an interface is to make things simpler. From book such as “Don’t Make me Think“, “The Paradox of Choice” to “The Design of Everyday Things” the topic of making users have to think less about the functionality of a site of product has been around for quite some time. But sadly websites such as recreation.gov are still making it nearly impossible for a user to find campgrounds near them that are available within those dates and compare and contrast the simple differences.

So again, how do we solve this? The answer: Aaron Shapiro, CEO of the global digital design agency Huge, states is “anticipatory design.”

The next big breakthrough in design and technology will be the creation of products, services, and experiences that eliminate the needless choices from our lives and make ones on our behalf, freeing us up for the ones we really care about.

At its core, the function of anticipatory design is to gather the data necessary and move from the era of personalization to automated decision-making. While most companies are taking baby steps towards this future (Amazon’s Recommended Products, and Netflix’s top picks) emerging examples of anticipatory design are gaining traction and are beginning to define new standards for what users will expect from their devices and services.

Nest is a great example of this – automatically adjusting the room temperature based on a user’s prior choices. It simply assesses what temperature the resident prefers based on time of day and adjusts the thermostat accordingly, thus ridding the users need to decide for themselves. Perfection.

Though getting to this point across the world wide web will take a lot of re-thinking, re-designing and a lot of data pulling from users, a future where decisions are made for us based on our personal preferences and desires is drawing near.

So, until we can all happily rely on a more automated decision making reality – keep things simple. Cut out what isn’t necessary in order to help your customers make faster decisions, if any at all. They’ll thank you for it.

Read more on Anticipatory design here

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