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Meta-Moments: Thoughtfulness by Design


Maybe you’ve stumbled across something new. Maybe you’ve come to see things in a different light. I call such experiences meta-moments: tiny moments of reflection that prompt us to think consciously about what we’re experiencing.

Putting up a “roadblock,” though, seems like a risky way to encourage a meta-moment. Stopping people in their tracks may make them simply turn around or try another road. For the roadblock to be effective (and not just annoying), there has to be enough interest to want to continue in spite of the obstacle.

Roadblocks come in many shapes and sizes, but they always enforce a conscious consideration of how best to proceed. Navigating around them gives us something to accomplish, and a story to tell. This is great for longer-term engagement

Speed bumps are less dramatic than roadblocks, but they still encourage thought. They aim to slow you down just enough so that you can pay attention to the bits you need to pay attention to.

A change in layout, content, or style is often all that is required to make users slow down.

Online, speed bumps can help prepare us mentally before we start something.

Online diversions deliberately move us away from conventional paths.

A diversion doesn’t have to be pronounced to make you think.

Meta-moments can provide us with space to interpret, understand, and add meaning to our experiences.

A user journey without friction is a bit like a story without intrigue—boring!

Our design practices don’t encourage this, though. We distract our users more than we intrigue them.