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Product Experience and Playing With Lego


Bad Products, Good Products & Great Ones

Business software (and to some extent software in general) can sometimes be a little bit awful: interfaces that are dense and complex, and an experience that feels dreary and draining.

These products see you, the user, not as a living person, but as a kind of wind up machine, whose role is to perform repetitive tasks as quickly as possible.

And perhaps if humans were perfectly rational, computer-like beings this would be just fine. But obviously that's not the case...

The best products acknowledge that we are actually nothing like this. We are not perfect rational actors but rather human animals.

Our minds are powered as much by intellect, as by intuition and instinct; and good products accomodate not only our logical intellect, but also the messy shapes of our intuition.

And the very best products, not only accomodate these messy shapes, they actually make an advantage from it. They use the very real super powers of our intuition; to empower the user in ways the intellect alone cannot.

To be clear: intuitive doesn't necessarily equal simple, and simple doesn't necessarily equal better. Misapplied, simple can be just as confusing as complex.

Rather, great products are keenly aware of the shape of human intuition. And through that awareness, create just the right kind of simplicity.



At Qwilr we want doing one's work to be enjoyable, creative and empowering - a kind of work that is not only valuable and productive, but that you enjoy putting your mind to. Emphasising the (potential) pleasure of doing the work and not just its material outcomes.

Alright, sounds cool, but what does such a product experience actually look like?

The analogy I often turn to is that of playing with Lego. The product is genius. Its basic unit, the Lego block, is the definition of correctly applied simplicity.

Just by picking up a Lego block and looking at, it already tells you how to use it and how it fits together with other blocks. There's no instruction booklet, or onboarding guide needed for playing with Lego. Everyday intuition supplies these answers.

As a product experience, one of the defining traits of Lego is that the blocks only fit together in particular ways (aka right angles etc). One might call this a constraint, but it's just focusing on what people actually want from Lego blocks: they want to build stuff; they don't want to spending time and energy getting all the blocks to line up properly at neat angles.

Lego is also very approachable. Given how simple the starting point is, there's little to be intimidated by, nothing that looks hard to figure out. For this reason you can really "play" with Lego. It's worth emphasising that this is the verb most often associated with Lego. It's not "use". Parents do not suggest to their children "why don't you use some Lego?", they say "play", "why don't you play with some Lego?".

And what is "play"? To play is to experiment, to be open to surprise and to the unexpected, to play for the intrinsic pleasure of play as well as the outcome of that play.

Best of all, these qualities, which perhaps you might think of as childlike, do not enfeeble Lego as a creative medium. Though the Lego block seems humble, you can build incredibly rich and complex things with it.

For all these reasons, as we strive to build not just good products but great ones, we ought study the simple act of playing with Lego.