Your customers are always looking for ways to accomplish each task as fast as possible. Whether that be ordering groceries online, booking a hotel on an app or speaking to Alexa to set a timer. If price is king, then convenience is surely queen. You must find ways to make life easier for the customer, they will surely abandon your product for the competitor that meets their, albeit, lazy needs. Convenience is key and a core concept of designing a friction-less user experience.

Designers and product professionals obsess over the user experience for this exact reason. In a lot of ways, our sole purpose is to better understand the customer’s psychological state at every moment so we can align the product accordingly. Every click is backed by a decision. Every decision is founded on some inferred result. Understanding the entire flow and helping walk the customer through your product’s process with ease is the focus of this article.

What is friction?

Friction is anything that interrupts the fluidity of interactions between your product and the customer. Whenever the customer is required to think or enter information can be understood as friction. Friction is subtle and annoying. It’s so subtle sometimes, that it’s usually overlooked. For instance, let’s review the following checkout form.

The above form asks for a ton of required fields that may or may not be necessary to place an order. What’s more there are several tricks of the trade that can be implemented to expedite the process.

3 Ways to Reduce Friction

Below you will find three rules of thumb for designing an elegant, frictionless experience.

1. Avoid Unnecessary Steps

Keeping the customer-focused is key to designing a smooth user experience. Ensuring the set of tasks required for a given action seems effortless will entice the customer to continue. Alternatively, designing a wordy, long or cumbersome experience can reduce focus and result in abandonment.

Understand what your most successful customers do

As a product manager, you must know what a successful customer does. Identifying all potentially distracting elements or options from a given flow could dramatically improve focus. Layout all possible routes to completing the action and remove elements that get in the way.

Likewise, if you learn that a certain landing page, channel or messaging framework is working, double down on that strategy.

Map Every Click They Take Today

Map out the customer’s journey. Understand every time the customer has to take action. Figure out if you can reduce a click by walking the customer through. At ID90 Travel, we were able to reduce our flights booking process from 15 to 9 clicks. We were only able to do this after we put ourselves in our customer’s shoes and identified unnecessary actions. Which brings me to my next point.

Reduce Their Cognitive Workload by Guiding Them Through

Once we identified all of the superfluous steps in our design, we implemented a process that would walk the customer through the process seamlessly. For instance, let’s layout our first variation of search:

  1. Go to flights screen
  2. Select flight departure field
  3. Type flight departure destination
  4. Choose flight departure destination
  5. Select flight arrival field
  6. Type flight arrival destination
  7. Choose flight arrival destination
  8. Tap calendar field
  9. Select Date
  10. Confirm Date
  11. Select Passengers
  12. Search
  1. Go to flights screen
  2. Choose flight departure destination
  3. Choose flight arrival destination
  4. Select Date
  5. Confirm Date
  6. Select Passengers
  7. Search

instead of clicking flight depart, selecting a destination, selecting this by walking the customer through destination, date and customer selection instead of requiring the customer to click each individual input field and confirm their input.

2. Give Customers Clear Direction

Design a minimalistic user experience with a focused call to action

Unlike worldly products, digital products need to communicate to the user on a flat surface what the product does and how to use it. When your product’s interface has a lot of clutter, the user will have a more difficult time to process the information and understand your product’s utility. This is why there is a shift for consumer digital products to champion minimalism in their design: clear and concise copy and a directly evident call to action.

This can be easier said than done. Check to see if you can communicate your message in fewer words, remove unnecessary elements and distracting colors from the interface and improve the focus of each screen found in your product.

Provide the customer with directly evident errors

This one is overlooked so often. I remember when it was commonplace to find non-descriptive error messages like Error: invalid input. This kind of error doesn’t explicitly inform the user what went wrong. This lack of direction will keep the user guessing until the uncover the problem themselves.

This rule is important whether the customer is attempting to log in, search for products or make a purchase. Inform the customer what’s wrong as concise and direct as possible to help them move forward.

Be sure to help direct your customers with clearer error messages.

Use clear and concise language

If you have to write a paragraph to explain why your product exists, you’ve failed the customer. Customers just don’t read. Knowing this, product professionals and marketers must reduce the basic utility of the app or feature down to it’s most basic function. Juxtaposing the value of the product and the target demographic is key.

3. Reduce The Time Required

Ask only for what is needed

What do you need for the customer to create an account? Most times, it’s just the email which is unique to the customer. However, many products still ask for more intrusive information like the customer’s full name, phone number, age and more. While this additional data can be helpful in the future, it can absolutely deter the customer from ever signing up for your product.

Remove friction from all forms

Be sure to A/B test require input fields at different points of the customer experience. This is especially true during the lead and acquisition phase of the experience. However, for things like checkout, it’s almost always a good idea to omit superfluous fields from the form. If you’re asking things like “Mr” or “Mrs.”, you’re probably asking for

Leverage previously provided data

If your app requires the customer to routinely enter data to complete an action, then try your very best to reuse past data. You should encourage customers to create accounts and store the data for future use. This can include things like their name, shipping address, billing address, preferences, etc. This may seem small, but when you quantify this pain across your entire customer base, it can be a massive relief. Which leads me to my next point.

Personalize the customer experience using data

You may know what a past customer may prefer and alter their experience accordingly. Great. But what about the customers you have yet to activate? Here is the opportunity that lies beneath: use your aggregated data to infer the best experience for your customers. If your selling products, allow past purchases from similar customers to influence the results. This may include what shows up on auto-complete while searching or the first three results on a page. Don’t do guesswork. Let your customers help you better serve future customers.