The App Designer

Designing apps is a fascinating topic.

At first glance, it appears to be concerned with deciding how to lay out screens, where to put buttons, and what those buttons should do.

Look a little deeper, and you start to realize it’s not about the layouts and buttons, but the people who are using them. When somebody sees this on a screen, what do they think? How does it affect their behavior?

When somebody sees a little red circle with a number on it, how do they react to that? Will it engage them further, drawing their attention, pulling them in?

But if you stare into the deepest, darkest bowels of app design, what you’ll see is that it’s not about how people react to your buttons at all. What it’s really about, is how they react to the other people using those buttons and layouts.

Would that little red circle with the number in it have so much power, if the number was randomly generated? No, of course not. The number’s power flows from its source: the attention of others.

The skilled app designer knows that by carefully selecting layouts and buttons, they’re able to shape the communication between others – and channel it for their own benefit.

If the only way to react to a post is to like it – if the only way to acknowledge someone’s existence is to like what they say – then it’d be cruel not to. It’d be cruel not to press the button that increments that little red number in their little red circle. It’d be cruel not to light up their phone screen with an invitation to dive into the world of outrage and distraction once more.

You see, app design is a lot like language design; you’re designing the language by which your users will communicate; by which your users will think.

You’re designing a thought process involving spurts of 280 characters, punctuated by “like” signals. And by god, it makes Newspeak sound doubleplusgood.