Tech works best when it’s invisible and effortless because it gives the illusion of magic and control.

It’s an open and well established thought but it is often forgotten, especially among those more accustomed to modern technology traits.

Picture it; you’ve got a neat idea for how your client’s customers can interact and play with some slick gadgets on display within the client’s store. They could interact with content on a big screen, make some pretty lights flash and a little robot dance, great! All they have to do is pull out their smartphone, connect to the store’s network and play!

Sounds great but examining the real life processes needed quickly turns your sweet idea into a bit of a sour one. To break down why, we need to look closer at the steps taken when a customer walks into the store:

  1. Upon noticing the slick gadget display, the customer has to first be interested enough to suspend what they ultimately came into the store to do, often a decision is made instantly.
  2. They then need to figure out that to interact with the gadget display they’ll need to have compatible smart phone.
  3. If they’ve made it this far then they’re already in the minority; but the biggest hurdle is that they have to care enough to willingly interact with what is ultimately an advert.
  4. The customer will then have to connect to the store’s network, open up their browser and finally work their way around the user interface to finally control the gadget display.

When first impressions are everything, that’s a very expensive 1-5 minutes of setup time which will severely narrow down the people that are ultimately going to experience the display.

When looking to grab an audience to engage or interact with your content, you should first make sure they have to do as little work as possible to be able to achieve that. Even when it may seem like little effort, it all adds up – you can’t immediately entice anyone by first giving them work to do.

While the example situation described above featured the use of a smartphone, the principle extends to any sort of interaction which involves instructions and actions to just be able to unlock your content.

This same argument could be used to partly explain the rise and fall of QR codes in advertising. It was a new and exciting idea on paper but had such a small use base in reality; the amount of people who want to go to the effort of trying to scan a QR code on a poster or packaging to explore and interact with a brand will most likely not want to be doing it at the moment of discovery – while you’re trying to eat your cereal or get home waiting for a bus.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of executing an idea around direct user attention before reaching the real content because we feel it’s now natural for people to engage and work within their smartphones, tablets, laptops etc. But it’ll never be as smooth as just sticking something in front of people’s faces.

Our own award winning Women’s Aid digital posters embraces this philosophy, passers-by interact with the poster by just looking at it to change its contents.

Some other examples where tech surprises and rewards us for doing very little or next to nothing:

Peter Hudson’s Eye Contact display:

Lozano Hemmer's The Year's Midnight display on show at the Barbican's Digital Revolution

Lozano Hemmer’s The Year’s Midnight display on show at the Barbican’s Digital Revolution


Simon Batty

About Simon Batty

Creative Technologist smashing together code, gadgets, design and sometimes my head.

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