Skip to main content

The mindset of digital tools

‘Don’t make me think’ is a popular book on web usability published in 2000. I don’t know if I should recommend it, I haven’t read it. My guess is that fewer people have read it than quoted it. I always had an issue with this title. While I assume Krug meant that designers and developers should understand the user’s point of view and not make the website a puzzle to solve that will become a blocker to their goals, not all blockers are bad. Not thinking is awful when it comes to online shopping or binge-watching.

If our mindful and creative activities happen in the same space, on the same devices, as our mindless consumption, which mindset will we learn faster?

Or as a friend once said, ‘it’s never the poop that gets a pant-stain.’ As I keep bringing it up like a broken record: when the main revenue behind our digital interfaces is advertising, the patterns serving advertisers unintentionally spill over into every digital product. For example Mastodon doesn't have to look like Twitter since it's not funded by VC and advertisers: it could become better.

That doesn’t mean we can’t change our digital habits and tools, but it does take time and intention – which should be normal. Kids start with tricycles before they move onto bikes, most tools do have a learning curve! Professional software always did.

These are all my trails of thought if I'm being mindless. It's messy.

One way to preserve and strengthen space for creative thinking with digital tools is to set aims and intentions before diving in, and to regularly keep checking in with ourselves and our progress - a lot of thinking and thinking about the thinking! Regardless of the exact digital tool, we need some habits and routines to counteract the pull of mindless consumption and productivity. And this is what Anne-Laure Le Cunff is teaching to her learning community during the Mindful Productivity course (Opens in a new window): by coming back and reviewing regularly what is important in the next hour, week, or month, we are made to think about how we use our digital tools and how we guide our limited attentional capacities - which is ultimately how we spend our lives.

If we feel in control of our time and attention, we can let go easier, slip into the state of flow, and enjoy the journey towards our goals. Or give up on things that are not enjoyable or meaningful - selecting what not to focus on is just as important as choosing what matters.

Currently reading:

Malka Older: Infomocracy

Dr. Gábor Máté: Scattered Minds

… and I probably have a few other half-finished volumes lying around.