Slippy UX

Like many people, I spend a lot of time interacting with screens and being interrupted by various devices. I can’t remember the last time I went an hour without checking my phone, and I spend more time staring at pixels than looking at people. In this part of the world, we are never not connected, and this only becomes increasingly true. The wearable technology industry—already a $3-5 billion market—is set to grow to over $40 billion within the next five years according to research from Credit Suisse, radically altering the way we interact with technology, our environment, and each other.

Social media has become so embedded in personal and business communication that it is one of the leading ways in which we engage with each other and feel connected. Everywhere you look people are communicating and “socializing” but more and more these interactions take place through new and multiplying mediations.


In a recent article UX Magazine listed their top predictions for UX trends in 2015 which included the rise of what they called “slippy” UX. Compared to the old model of “sticky” UX—experiences that are meant to pull you in, keep you interested, and bring you back for more—slippy UX is about creating experiences that operate effectively, yet invisibly. Coined by Jake Zukowski, Assistant Creative Director at Frog Design, he perfectly illustrates the need for this kind of design within the automobile industry.

“Here, UX literally finds itself in a life-or-death situation: can a digital experience in a car operate effectively, yet invisibly enough to not affect the safety of a driver and her passengers? A successful design in this concept is ‘slippy’ because it is designed for glance-ability, minimal copy, and use in potentially high-stress situations.”

This extends into the concept of the connected home—people don’t want to live in a house that is constantly interrupting their lives. The idea is designing seamless experiences to enhance not distract from analog activities—laundry, sleeping, comfort, and (gasp!) talking to each other? With the addition of wearable devices, technology that it is literally attached to you body, these things should really be enhancing our world and personal experiences, both analog and digital, rather than interfering with them.

In another recent relevant article ACM Interactions Magazine talks about designing for the “connected everyday”.

[It] is a question of how we can facilitate meaningful opportunities for communication and interaction—not just a question of how digital technologies can make our lives more effective. It is a fundamental design question about the kind of life we want to live: one where we often feel overloaded, distracted, and fractured in our social engagements, with notifications that pull us away from our lives and sometimes from the things we really want to be doing. Or the kind of life where the ability to connect across networks is commensurate with our current practices in the physical world.

The article goes on to discuss this idea of designing for commensurability. In order for digital objects to integrate into our lives, we need to make our ability to connect to people and things across networks commensurate with our practices in the physical world. We need to move beyond the artificial dichotomy of online and offline. For designers this means enabling people to connect to data and information in a more tactile way that supports connections and interactions grounded and organized around practices in the physical world, not just layered on top of them.