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Natural Flow

Headline: This post is a follow-on post to the Speed – The 2-second Rule post, however this post describes the problem of providing a satisfying experience for our customer with analogies rather than logic and numbers.

A Satisfying Golf Game

On rare occasions I enjoy the game of golf – chasing a small ball around a substantial expanse of real estate with a variety of clubs trying to place the ball into a hole in the ground only 108 millimeters (4.25 inches) in diameter… 18 different times. I recall times that were most enjoyable… such as the time my wife and I were on vacation and played a round on an April Thursday morning. We were the only people on the course. We didn’t rush around the course… We took our time. We walked. We stopped for cokes after 9 holes. It was one of the most relaxing rounds of golf I played… and yet it was one of the fastest. Other times left me waiting in a line on the tee box… Abandoning my search for the ball to keep play going (my ball is frequently not in the middle of the fairway, but instead out in a field). I have a short spurt of play followed by a wait. Repeated again and again.

A Fun Motorcycle Ride

Years ago I found myself on my motorcycle at a place called Deal’s Gap or “The Tail of the Dragon” – a road that has 318 curves in 11 miles!

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I was passing through on a Wednesday in October one year and got to the road when no one was around. I made it all the way through the scenic drive without encountering a single vehicle. No motorhomes, not large trucks, no faster motorcycles trying to get around me. The temperature was perfect at about 60 degrees F. If you’ve ridden a motorcycle or bicycle and know the smooth flow as you roll from one turn into the next you know how fluid it can be. I find it a wonderful feeling.

I don’t enjoy riding my motorcycle in Houston rush hour traffic in August. Stopping… starting… dodging other vehicles.

A Relaxing Weekend

I just spent a delightful weekend with my wife. We had no real plans. We ate when we were hungry. Walked the dog when it wanted it. Read. Went for a walk in Houston’s City Center on a day when the weather was beautiful. We had no appointments… no specific place we had to be. I did get a lot of reading done as did she. We watched a movie in the evening. I wrote quite a bit of code in the morning hours.

What do these have in common?

The choices are mine. I’m not limited by my environment. My “flow” is not interrupted by the things or people around me. I’m able to move gracefully at a pace at which my mind and body feel natural to connect the dots of thoughts and actions from one moment to the next. Time flies, and yet stands still. I’m both productive and relaxed.

This is the experience I want to create for users. Responsiveness is one component of such a software experience… but so is the intuitiveness of the software… the richness of the user interface.

I hope that these “softer” and less codified descriptions help make the point more clearly than my “hard, cold" 2-second rule”.

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