User Experience and Addiction

I stumbled across this article the other day, which seemed like something that would be of interest to the class. It also brought me back to the workshop on User Experience with Samantha Raddatz, which I attended a few weeks ago. In her workshop, she explained a few different methods for testing programs (focus groups, randomly approaching people in coffee shops, etc.) and the way that program/site/app designers often miss the most glaring issues with their own interface, how integral it is to test everything and to be open to the possibility of having to reorganize the information architecture of the site/app/etc. in order to best serve the people using the interface. It is necessary to go through a rigorous and diverse testing phase (although the best results do actually come from the first 5 people who test an app), in order to ascertain that the interface supports user expectation, and enables a positive, simple user experience.

The linked article looks at the user experience, and questions what drives user experience—not just the experience of using an app or site, but the experience of wanting to check it, wanting to be constantly connected. Apparently the concept of internet addiction has been discussed by psychologists since the advent of the first mainstream web browser, but as our technology becomes more and more streamlined and is streaming into the palms of our hands it has become a serious issue.

Is intuitive information architecture partially to blame for this? Does the ease of use create the sort of dependence we see when, on a Friday night, half the people in a bar are on their phones rather than interacting with other people in the bar? Does the ease of use and the resulting expectation of constant accessibility cause the frustration or anxiety many people feel when they don’t have service or wifi to quickly check their social media accounts on a smartphone?