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About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by David Cronin, Robert Reimann, Alan Cooper

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Chapter 10. Orchestration and Flow

If our goal is to make the people who use our products more productive, effective, and engaging, we must ensure that users remain in the right frame of mind. This chapter discusses a kind of mental ergonomics — how we can ensure that our products support user intelligence and effectiveness and how we can avoid disrupting the state of productive concentration that we want our users to be able to maintain.

Flow and Transparency

When people are able to concentrate wholeheartedly on an activity, they lose awareness of peripheral problems and distractions. The state is called flow, a concept first identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

In Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister describe flow as a “condition of deep, nearly meditative involvement.” Flow often induces a “gentle sense of euphoria” and can make you unaware of the passage of time. Most significantly, a person in a state of flow can be extremely productive, especially when engaged in constructive activities such as engineering, design, development, or writing. To state the obvious, then, to make people more productive and happy, it behooves us to design interactive products to promote and enhance flow, and for us to go to great pains to avoid any potentially flow-disturbing behavior. If the application consistently rattles a user and disrupts her flow, it becomes difficult for her to maintain that productive state. ...

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