Focus Enabling Design Distilled

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Interface elements either help the user experience, or hurt it. A redesign should consider possible features and choose a minimal set justified by essential use-cases. — Focus Enabling Design[1]

Where the previous post was a narrative, this is a minimal summary and step-by-step.


Every interface element of a focus enabling design helps the user do one of these:

and must avoid both of these:

Question Every Interface Element

When (re)designing for focus, start with questioning every interface element.

Does this interface element encourage focus?

There are two important aspects of focus:

There are two ways an interface element can help a user stay focused:

  1. do a quick action - does the element allow the user to quickly collect or handle something and return to the current activity without breaking flow?
  2. add to current activity - does the element help the user with their current activity?

There are also two exceptions where encouraging the user to change focus is worth the cost of context switching:

  1. emergency - does the element notify/alert the user of an emergency and/or allow them to take action on it?
  2. a higher priority activity - does the element remind the user of another existing higher priority activity, or encourage starting a new higher priority activity?

If an interface element does one of those above four, keep it.

Or does this interface element distract the user?

There are also two ways that interface elements typically distract users, specifically by encouraging them to:

If an interface element encourages either of those, it is a source of distraction. Drop it.

Try that out and let me know how it works for you.