product — Irony of easy

Before entering into product management, I was like any other ordinary user who assumes things are by default supposed to be smooth, not to even add consideration of user experience into the picture here first. In some sense, I thought things should be easy to use for everybody, and people should not even have time to doubt why certain buttons are placed here and there. So when they are not, I’d mused why it’s not done. Clicking on this should show me this. Ain’t pop up boxes supposed to be the default response when I click, why do I have to think of this? If I don’t click, just go back? Why do we need to think so much??

But the experience in product so far has been a lesson of learning the irony of easy. What looks easy to do is not that easy at all — Just through a snap of fingers and things will automatically work the way we’re accustomed to? What looked like automatic is in fact a deliberate effort by product managers behind, brainstorming and processing different logics, possible scenarios and edge cases to make the user think it’s easy. It’s like the goal on how to make a product successful is when a user think it’s so easy to make it. So easy to make it until they actually make it and realized… (Oh, that was me).

One example is how WhatsApp recently introduced reactions to each message (Huh why only now? is the common response when it was bought over by a company called Meta that introduced the ‘Like’ button in the social space first, way before everyone else did). Products take time to build, priorities are different for everybody, even down to what we think of as reactions “only”.

In building products, easy is somehow never used as a description word, while it also embodies so many things at once that this four-letter word doesn’t seem enough to encapsulate the meaning of it. Easy user interface, easy to use, easy to adopt, easy to share. I find myself more careful in using this word, whether in meetings or when I happened to see a product that I don’t quite understand and tempted to jump on feedback.

Easy is not the same as simple. These two words are different obviously, yet we see them intertwined in the whole user experience, whether it’s physical or digital experiences we go through. Simple instructions and easy to use. Simple and clear steps, easy to navigate. You can build simple-to-use products, with simple solutions and solving just one clear-cut problem, but it is never easy trying to build a so-called easy product. Because there’s no such thing as an easy product.

I think that’s also the beauty of it.

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