Obvious Always Wins

Back in 2014, I started to become really interested in UX Design, I stumbled over a profound quote by Luke Wroblewski, also known as just “Luke W”.

The quote, which is now a stable in my UX vocabulary, goes like this:

Obvious Always Wins

It’s short, it’s concise, and it’s one of the rare absolute truths in life (rarely is anything truly black and white).

No matter what the context is, if you want other people to understand what you want them to do, make your product design as blatant as humanly possible.

  • Don’t make any assumptions on your users’ behalf.
  • Don’t assume people are stupid, don’t assume people are smart.
  • Don’t assume that people have your level of motivation to scavenge a website to look for answers. Assume that they’re busy, distracted, and looking for a way out.

Only assume that people don’t know what you know about your product, whether it’s a website, an app or video game.

Do you think the hamburger button makes your design look modern and clean?

Perhaps it does, but even in 2019, there are people (millions) who don’t know that those 3 horizontal lines represent a menu button.

How do you fix it?

You either use:

  • Menu
  • Menu + the Hamburger button icon

Explicit communication almost always beats implicit communication.

The advantage of implicit communication is that you can convey more information in fewer words, and thus save time. Unfortunately, implicit communication only works if everyone listening to you have the same knowledge level about the topic as you — which is rarely the case.

If you or a tiny group of people from your company are the only ones testing and refining your product, you will inevitably stir blind, and miss obvious faults in your design, that will hurt the end-user if not corrected before your product goes on the market.

The only assumption you can safely make is that people generally don’t know what you know, and therefore you shouldn’t explain how a product that you created works, in the same way, that you’d explain it to yourself.

This is why getting lots of feedback from many different types of users (from within your target group) for your product is so valuable. It gives you a broader perspective and a deeper understanding of what makes a product objectively user-friendly.

Obvious always wins is a principle of life, that applies to everything involving user experience design.