Have you recently heard about the proliferation of the term ‘slippy UX’? I have and I must admit, I’ll hold my hands up, I only first came across it in UX Mag’s top 10 UX predictions for 2015. Is this just me? Well, I’ll also out Katie Li as well to back me up here….

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.38.57 AM

Funnily enough, I wrote an article about my predictions for 2015 also because, let’s face it, we all do it in the industry – people are interested in it. Upon seeding it out there, whilst it received a lot of praise and interest, someone, who shall remain nameless, spoke up about those terms that were missing – the core one being ‘slippy ux’.

I wanted to explore a little bit more about this term, where it came from, what does it mean and will it go anywhere?

What on earth is slippy UX?

Well in my personal opinion, that’s exactly what it is; a term. To establish, it’s about glance-ability and focuses less on engagement but more on quick task-based user requirements. Let me explain.

Jake Zukowski at Frog Design, apparently, coined the term. I could be wrong but the first instance what I can find on slippy design by Jake is a presentation talking about the user experience within cars. Slippy UX or not, it’s a fantastic presentation and well worth a look at!

If online we’re told to make our experiences sticky we need to question why? The association between ‘user engagement’ and conversion rate is often misunderstood. The best way I can describe this is the metric given to us in Google Analytics within the overview screen of “time spent on site”. For me, this is a double-edged sword. For example, are users spending longer on your site because they’re engaged or is it because they can’t find the content they want? Taking that metric, do we want a higher figure to demonstrate engagement with the site, or do we want a lower figure to demonstrate more of a slippy UX approach?

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.38.51 AM

Figure 1. Users on my site (http://davidmannheim.co.uk) spend on average 3 minutes 46 seconds. There is a lot of good content on the site so that doesn’t surprise me – but what does this individual metric mean on it’s own in context of my site and my users?

Generally it’s context dependant and that’s why Jake talks about slippy UX in cars. He mentions “for the car, you need to make things slippy. Make it scannably beautiful”. In a car you’re in a high-stress situation and if engaging with your car it’s often for a task-based purpose. Changing the radio. Setting a destination. Etc. That’s also why UX Mag discusses the same concept in terms of home automation.

I would also extend this to wearable devices. In the same concept that a watch, for example, will often be a task-based operation it would notably require a slippy UX. This, in addition with the lack of real estate, means that glance-ability and scanability (if they are such words) become more important. Take examples of the Apple Watch by Apple, especially with their Health and Fitness integration, this is a brilliant example of how just ‘glancing’ at the screen can provide you with all the information you need in a snapshot. Slippy UX, right? I hope Jake agrees.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.39.02 AM

We’ve spoken about how slippy UX is in use and can be in use today, but we’ve only really explored task-based systems: wearable devices, cars, home automation. Is this really a term that should be used in context with designing websites?

In my opinion yes. In theory, ‘slippy UX’ is just good usability. Hannah Atkin talks about this more, but the comments are what struck me most about this article. A gentleman called Mike Donaghue wrote that “UX designers should never be taught to make things sticky and desirable, they should be taught to make things appropriate” and unfortunately he stole my thunder. This is exactly what I believe in and slightly allude to above where the context of the UX will define what ‘type’ of UX is required.

Slippy UX is just a term. A nice term, don’t get me wrong, but ultimately it’s a derivative of UX (I guess that’s why the term “UX” is within the term “Slippy UX”).  Let’s just call it “good UX” or as Mike Donaghue calls it “appropriate UX”.

Author Bio:  David Mannheim works as a UX and Conversion Rate Optimisation Freelance Consultant in Manchester and Liverpool. He has written several UX related blog posts in the past.

Feature image curtsey of Jake Zukowski