Making Magical Products

August 8, 2023

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

- Arthur C. Clarke

The world of digital products is being turned on its head. The day when interfaces were restricted to primitive buttons that had predictable actions are behind us. We are entering the era of surprising interface design, and that's a good thing. Why? Because humans like surprises, and we work through things iteratively. Hear us out.

The conventional wisdom is that interfaces should be predictable. If you click a button, you should know what it does. If you click a link, you should know where it takes you. If you scroll down, you should know what you'll see. This is the way interfaces have been designed for decades. This is still an important principle for interfaces, but it's not the only one. There's a new principle that's emerging, and it's just as important: surprise.

In a world ruled by emojis, there's a new one on the rise. Have you been seeing this a little more lately?

It's the "sparkles" emoji. It's used to express a sense of magic, wonder, and surprise. Look closely at the following three videos.

Linear is an emerging popular issue tracker. This clip is from their AI feature announcement post.

Notion is a leading edge knowledge management app. This is from their Notion AI product page.

Canva is a popular design tool. They've also recently launched their own AI tools.

To convey the sense of magic and surprise, whether the user is searching, writing, or designing, the sparkle makes an appearance. Of course, what's surprising when interacting with well-implemented AI is that it feels like it understands us. We're so used to putting everything into terms the computer understands that it's a shock when the computer has a more intuitive sense of what we mean. Over time, this ability for the computer to be intuitive will become ubiquitous and the products that force users to follow restrictive interactions will feel just like using DOS would to a modern user today.

Building with AI is an exciting opportunity to bring fresh experiences to your users. It's a chance to build a product that feels like magic. Embrace it and start shipping AI features tomorrow ✨.

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