In UX-design there is a movement which I like to call the Nudge Philosophers. Nudgers believe that utilitarian interfaces are bad, like a police state or an anti-virus application. Software should impose as little forced workflow and restrictions as possible. It frustrates end-users. Rather invest in building hints or guides that make sense and make life easier.
A real-life example. Think about the lines painted on floors, walls or even ceilings of subways and parking basements. They help us reach a destination without imposing physical restrictions on where you can go. It merely nudges us on and sometimes has the side-effect of prettifying our environment in the process.
Metadata images on entities
Craftsmen are often overlooked in the fine detail of their craft, and its not until one day in a leisurely mode that you stop to notice it. The domain model editor inside Mendix has an overlooked feature, called Image. It is found on the entity itself. Images serve no functional purpose other than it being an aid to business engineers.
Adding images to your entities not only makes your entity unique, but the real magic comes out the moment you retrieve entities in microflow actions. Having visual cues are extremely useful. They help our eyes find and map the implicit logic in our heads much faster than having to map it out by reading what is in front of us. Especially with entities that are either spelled the same, or look similar.
Proof of the pudding
Lets take a domain model with 3 entities as a simplified example:
Now, see an example of selecting an entity:
Or searching within associations:
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. –Sherlock Holmes
Notice how quickly your eyes are guided to the right entity. It is the small things that, though not necessarily adding business value, that make us WANT to use software systems. Thats why we have an affinity to which phones we choose, or which applications we want buy. Interfaces matter, and nudging is an aesthetic opportunity to add value without being imposing or controlling. It is the “I want to” factor that makes or breaks our product.
We care about how something works, because we can appreciate the care invested in them; and not merely what it does. As Peter Thiel puts it “there are two types of secrets: those about nature and those about people.” Thiel dismisses the former as less interesting because they are less practical. “No one really cares about superstring theory. It wouldn’t really change our daily lives if it turned out to be true.” If my day-to-day job on the other hand was made better by a small change, that would make a huge difference.
The modeler inspires me to think differently. Try thinking about nudging when you develop your next UX.