Thoughtful Interaction Design

The realm between physical and digital world is blurring. People are now relying on digital products for daily tasks. When digital products can be replicated easily to offer similar functionality, the thoughtfulness put into the design is always unique.

Here are two examples of thoughtful digital product:

1. Slack

Slack is a virtual workspace for any kind of work. More than simply being usable, Slack offers a delightful experience in little things that are often outside our expectation.

Making Work More Enjoyable

Work is often associated with negative emotions, but Slack flipped the paradigm and made it more fun. Emoji, conversational microcopy, cheerful colour palette, personalization, customization, custom-feature extensible, bots to simplify tasks and many more. All of these features seem to be added to enhance the main experience of making work more enjoyable – hence the name Slack.


For most of us normal people, we often forget the existence of people with disabilities. Slack provides multiple accessibility features so everyone can use the product. The features include colour scheme for the colourblind, screen reader and large text.

Failing Gracefully

For various reasons, products inevitably fail at times. Slack did a great job on handling a missing page. Instead of the normal cryptic 404 error page, Slack showed an interactive fantasy screen, giving slight smiles instead of frown.

These are just several examples of how thoughtful Slack’s design towards users. Subtle animation, creative direction, gamification, micro-interactions, and countless number of design decisions are carefully weaved into the very core of Slack.

2. Zendesk

Zendesk is a family of customer service platforms. One word suitable to describe it would be a more “human” digital product.

Customer Relationship

Just like how Slack converted negative emotions into something positive, Zendesk did the same thing with customer. From the brand, how the copy is written, colour, illustration, down to how the company build trust with its customers, everything screams “relationship” – and people like to be in relationship.

Designing for Global Users

Every single feature went through multiple discussions and debates with Product Managers, Designers, Developers and several other teams (I interned here before so I saw the process). Simple decision like font is born through a carefully balanced considerations of brand, feel, legibility, accessibility. Things like adding an extra word might break overall interface when it is translated to multiple languages. Since Zendesk is used worldwide, everything must be accessible in Left-to-Right and Right-to-Left mode. Low-capability browsers are taken into account when adding new features. Ultimately, everything still needs to be tested and slowly iterated to provide a seamless experience for everyone.

These might be things that most of us take for granted, while in fact are there because they are purposely designed.

The Design of Everyday Things – Chapter 1

Response to Chapter 1:
Humans have always been great at adapting to unknown situations. We connect related (or even unrelated) past experiences to build conceptual models of a new experience. This implies that every single individual might have different way of perceiving things. What seems easy to use to someone might be hard to another.

It is our job as designers to normalise these perceptions by designing multiple signifiers. These subtle cues will make affordances and anti-affordances more obvious for average people (I personally think it’s impossible to create a complete foolproof design due to multiple factors like technology advancement, education and cultural differences). After all, design has to be so obvious that it is transparent.

Question 1:
It seems that we have various “universally-accepted design standards” for various specific products (e.g. ISO, WCAG). These standards could very well form some sort of formula or basic template for a “good design”. Why do you think poor design still happens everywhere?

Question 2:
In the first place, what do you think of iterating on conventions vs. innovating? Does trial-and-error in innovation process hurt people’s common expectation (conceptual model)?

Question 3:
How do you think an “ideal” design solution should be? Given that there are so many considerations to take (usability, aesthetics, accessibility, security, environmental impact, time, money, etc.). I personally think the key is about balance, but is sacrifice really inevitable? Or should there exist a “perfect” solution?