From app design to sock choice: Everything communicates

They say that everything communicates.

Quick digression: the reference to “they” reminds me of the classic scene in Pulp Fiction

You know the one – where Vincent and Mia are having dinner at Jackrabbit Slim’s – here excerpted for your reading pleasure from the IMDb script database.


Is that a fact?


No it’s not, it’s just what I heard.


Who told you this?



Mia and Vincent smile.


They talk a lot, don’t they?


They certainly do.

But, back to the post: everything communicates. Meaning what you wear, what you say and how you say it, where you live, when you eat, how you walk, etc. Everything.

The same is true of your website, enterprise software, or mobile productivity app. Everything about your app communicates.

So, when you are conceiving it, start by understanding what the heck you’re actually trying to do. Understand the context. Listen. Observe. Learn more about a usability technique, called contextual inquiry, that provides some useful guidance.

In addition to understanding context, it’s important to understand what the actual design elements themselves communicate. For example, elements like typeface and color are too often taken for granted.  They are considered more a matter of personal taste than deliberately approached with data in mind.

And, finally, understand the elements that lend credibility to your app.  This is perhaps the least understood yet most crucial aspect to design. I studied this subject years ago, stumbling across what I still consider to be the seminal, original work addressing persuasion and credibility in technology: BJ Fogg’s Persuasive Technology.

My 2005 article in Pragmatic Marketing magazine, Seven things you can do to improve your credibility on the web, is a good quick summary of some of Fogg’s research and writing, primarily focused on the credibility of promotional-oriented websites.

So, as a team, remember: think about what your _________(fill in the blank: app, website, office décor, customer thank you gift… whatever) communicates to see if it is saying what you want it to say.