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  • Writer's pictureDarren Cody

Adding Intentional Friction to UX Workflows

What is friction in UX?

In a User Experience (UX), the goal is usually to make it as smooth and as easy for the User as possible to accomplish the workflow. The Designer’s objective is to remove as many barriers to success as possible which includes designing frictionless workflows. Friction can be referred to as Pain Points in a User’s Journey which are areas of the workflow that take a long time to complete or too many steps/clicks.

Through Design Thinking, a UX Designer is able to identify the Pain Points of their purposed workflow and tweak the design in an iterative manner. Users will provide feedback on the areas of the design that they feel can be improved or streamlined to make it easier and faster to complete or accomplish an objective.

In most cases, it is just common sense to listen to the User’s feedback and improve the designs to incorporate their suggestions. Of course, it is easier said than done, and there may be technology blockers that the User is not aware of that make their suggestion impossible.

Intentionally going against the feedback or purposefully adding friction points goes against the sole purpose of User-centered design. There are cases to be made for when a Business Case/Reason can overcome the User’s feedback when the Designer should add friction points in the UX to satisfy the needs of the business.

What possible reason is there to add friction in UX?

There are many examples for when this may be applicable to your design, but for this article let’s use a Marketplace startup as the example and they are designing their Signup UX. We all know that a Signup Process is one of the trickiest workflows to design and it is a fine balance between asking for too much information and too little. There are different industry standards for Signup conversions ranging from very low such as a tightly regulated marketplace to a free-for-all e-commerce marketplace.

There is a high chance that this marketplace startup is looking to have a high engagement rate of their User and to make sure they are responsive to other members’ requests or messages. We believe that in the Feature Requirements stage of the Product process, the Product Manager can have a hypothesis that intentionally adding friction in their Signup Process will result in a higher quality level of User.

The reason being is that a User who takes the time to complete a Signup Process that is X more steps than the competitor or asks for X more data points is more likely to be committed to your marketplace. This is because that User has invested their valuable time into creating an account on your platform which can translate into having high intentions to transact on your marketplace.

On the other hand, a lower quality User will most likely abandon during the Signup Process due to the friction points because they simply do not care enough about joining your marketplace. As soon as they hit a barrier in your Signup UX, they will leave. Now, this does not mean 100% of Users who abandon the Signup are low-quality Users and wouldn’t have adopted your platform.

It does however force you to ask yourself if it does create a higher engaged User on your platform because they have “bought into it” by spending their time to create the account.

What are the benefits of adding friction to a workflow?

There may be many benefits to adding barriers to a User Experience such as; higher engagement, higher adoption, lower churn, better network effect, etc. We are assuming that because the User has put up with certain friction points in the User Journey, they’ve already calculated the value of using the platform.

Using your platform is worth more to the User to have some pain than to abandon the platform altogether and find an alternative.

What are the negative effects of adding friction?

Of course, this is not the perfect solution to your adoption rate because when you add some friction there will be a segment of Users who will not put up with it and abandon the workflow. It may also cause a negative impact on your network effectiveness because they are more likely to share a poor experience than a positive one.

We can guarantee that adding friction to your signup will result in a lower conversion rate and possibly have greater repercussions. You will need to make the Business Requirements crystal clear with everyone that Adoption or Churn is more important than Conversion.

When should you intentionally add friction to a UX?

In a Marketplace platform, there are many prospected areas to add friction points in the User’s Journey. Perhaps you want to have an easy entry point (Signup Process) and a harder Listing Process for your Supply to ensure they will be more engaged with the Demand side.

Do your best to think of the areas of most importance and if there is agreement that a lower conversion is acceptable in order to have a higher adoption rate then that is a perfect suspect to test with.

This is a perfect reason to start A/B Testing on your platform. Give 50% of traffic one workflow and the balance the harder workflow and create two User Segments based on that statement. Wait one or two months and see what the engagement rate is with the Segment that had the harder workflow. You will be happily surprised by the results.


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