Spoon Bending – A UX Metaphor

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

I often see product managers or engineers trying to define how the user should complete their task.  They want to create a “Wizard” that guides them through the steps.  Step 1, Step 2, Step 3.  They want to control the flow of events.  They want the user to go in the order they want.

To me, this is spoon bending.  Re-read the quote at the top.  There is no right way to do things.  There is only the way the user wants to go.  Rather than design a system that requires things to go in just one direction, let the user build in whatever order they want.  You can give them hints what they can do, but essentially, let them drive.

Bending the user to do what you want is impossible (without them hating you.)  Rather, you must bend yourself.  Allow the spoon to be however the spoon wants to be.  Allow the user to go however the user wants.

If you follow this technique, you will find all of your users will say your application is intuitive and fun.  They will say it works the way that they do.  In reality, it works the everyone does because it doesn’t force a single path.

This technique costs a bit in engineering time, but is well worth it in sales and user satisfaction.

Whatya think?