Is Curling Parenting a Principle for Good Design?

“Maybe you don’t want to ask a question, maybe you just want it answered for you, before you ask it.”

Words spoken by Larry Page during a recent fireside chat describing the philosophy around Google Now.

Does this sentence sum up the future of digital design?

To put it this way: Don’t you feel that on a daily basis that there are too many interface interactions? Too many form fields to fill in, too many buttons to push, too many apps to open. To me it feels, in terms of input, that the web hasn’t radically changed much in the last decade. With the onus on usability during recent years, interfaces have become progressively easier to use. However, if you look at your traditional website, eCommerce, blog or social network experience, they haven’t fundamentally transformed in terms of composition.

What would be ideal is to have less interfaces and input, and more information given when you need it. Services like Google Now and Amazon’s anticipatory shipping method are showing the potential.

A metaphor that I think is quite fitting for this design principle, is what we in Sweden call, a “Curling Parent”.

“Like a curler at the Winter Olympics, carefully sweeping all the snow out of the way, we remove all obstacles so the precious little child can go through life without even a bump.”
Laurie Essig, Ph.D.

A Curling Parent is someone who alleviates problems for their children, without the child even knowing, always staying one step ahead.

Although it has a negative connotation, I believe that design should be like this overprotective parent, sweeping obstacles away from you, without you knowing.

“The design is done when the problem goes away.”
Jason Fried

So, how can we become a preemptive parent?

By learning from data.

My experience of working with a wide array of businesses over the years is that data is not leveraged enough in design. When starting design projects, using customer insight data is not always on the radar, most commonly because of IT and budget issues.

When crafting products and services, we should strive to dig into the existing data before sharpening our pencils and sketching the interface. As designers, let’s try to have the Curling Parent metaphor top of mind: Less input, more output.

“Good design is as little design as possible”
Dieter Rams