The last year or so, I have been obsessing over what I call ‘flow over feature’. Its is the maybe somewhat obvious idea, that you can not think of individual features or products in isolation, you have to think about how you solve problems in the context of the users ‘flow’. Now while that thinking is somewhat already embedded into the notion of user cases, I find that use cases themselves are often too specific and overlook emotional flow-based-insights that are important. We focus too much about solving the specific problem, rather than understand the mental space the user is in – and thus we might solve the problem but the experience is not fluid. Let me give you an example. The other day, I stayed at the W hotel in San Francisco. As I was stepping into the shower I noticed that the bath mat towel used when stepping out on the floor after showing was rolled instead of folded. This meant that I could tap it with my foot just before stepping into the shower instead of bending down and un-folding it. I then turned on the shower and noticed that the shower head had been pointed towards the wall, making the first bit of cold water that is always in the pipes go onto the wall instead of me. Finally, as I went out of the shower, I found the bathrobe next to the shower with the string tied in a way so I could just pull the string and the bathrobe would open instead of having to untie the knot. Future more the string was secured to the side of the bathrobe so it didnt fall down on the floor. Overall the W hotel had managed to identify my user flow and optimize each elements of the features instead of just seeing them as independent ones. The W have realized that a user is in a flow when using the bathroom features – making my experience much better as the features was adaptive to the flow.
I think when we develop sites and products, we often forget to fully understand the physical or mental flow properly of a user, e.g. where was the mouse pointed at last, what are a user thinking about as they use a feature or do they hit a page from the side door (e.g. google) or our frontdoor of our site. In order to make successful products, we need to increase this understanding – so we can wrap our technology more invisible around human behavior.