Can there be too much of a frictionless experience?

The ultimate goal of a good user experience design is to create as seamless and as frictionless way to fulfill a task as possible. The less pain points there are, and the less roadblocks, the better. The ideal scenario is when an action or a behavior can be served with a single click or a swipe.

But what happens when a seamless, simple and easy design starts to enabletoo much of a behavior? In other words, what if some friction is good?

Think food. Seamless, true to its name, designed such an easy and simple food ordering system that in fact end up ordering more (orders become 15% more complex and 6% higher in calories), and paying more for it (21% more, to be exact). The study where those numbers came from links the “freedom to order” to anonymity that online ordering offers.

Undoubtledly, social factors play a role. But the more interesting problem here may be one of design. What if experience design made it harder for us, and not easier, to fulfull our food cravings, unhealthy diet choices and instant gratification?

The challenge here clearly is that a service that is less seamless is going to lose in the competition against those that fulfill our needs better, faster and easier. Simply put, consumers won’t use it. Solving this problem ironically requiers a seamless design of friction (or obstacles) into behavior that, if facilitated, is detrimental to our health.

That’s a pretty new tought. I’d love to see Seamless that fosters healthy choices, doesn’t respond to our food cravings, offers postponed gratification and still stays in business. It’s a pretty neat design problem.