Being hard to use is one of the most common ways in which technology fails to support its users, so making your technology easier to use is always a good thing, right?
Well… No. Not always. In some cases, making tech harder to use than it needs to be can be extremely helpful.
Why? Because our long-term goals and short-term motivations often conflict. Our long-term goals are almost always the ones needing support, and sometimes a great way to support long-term goals is to make it harder, not easier, to satisfy short-term motivations.
For example, how often do you want to check your email?
To support my long-term goals, I’d like to check email a few times a day, focusing most of my time and attention on projects I already know are important to me, without being distracted by curiosity about my inbox.
However, my short-term motivations urge me to check it many times an hour, every time I get that itchy feeling of wondering what might have arrived in my inbox since I last looked.
I decided it was time I made my own tech more supportive of my long-term goals by making my smartphone harder to use for checking email.
I turned off automatic notifications, so my phone no longer gives any indication that new mail has arrived through blinking lights, status icons, etc: I only see whether new email has arrived if I actually launch the email app.
That was a step in the right direction, but it was still too easy to scratch my inbox itch.
What else could I do? I needed to be able to use my smartphone to check email. I just didn’t want it to be quite so darned easy!
Then it occurred to me: This is like parenting my self. Just as I store tempting cookies out of sight and out of reach of my young children, my aim here is to put my email inbox further out of reach of my short-term motivations.
This connection to the idea of parenting gave me the key to an effective technological solution: A simple Android app locker app.
I’ve successfully made my smartphone harder to use for checking email. Now to launch the email app, I have to enter a long password – easy for me to remember but just tedious enough to support my long-term goals by blocking my short-term motivation to scratch my inbox itch.
What about your tech? Are parts of it too easy to use? Would an option to make those parts harder to use make it more supportive?