Beyond ‘kind of like milk’ experiences

3 min readMar 23, 2016

The experience of decisions-and the act of making decisions-is a costly exercise for our brains. Mark Zuckerberg chooses to wear the same outfit each day, as did Steve Jobs, so that they are able to save as much cognitive energy for important decisions as they can.

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that decisions as simple as what to wear takes a huge toll on our overall ability to make decisions throughout the day. Each decision we make-regardless of it’s importance-requires energy, of which we have a finite amount.

Service Design agency Fjord talk to taking thinking off the thinking list for customers in their 2016 Trends report in order to increase the customer’s experience, and to simplify their lives.

Drawing on the sheer number of choices and marketing of milk products, they outline that purchasing milk these days can be a troublesome nightmare. With aleardy so many choices of varities of milk we’re now also seeing the market flooded with products that are ‘kind of like milk’.

This marketplace complexity makes choosing the right milk a task filled with anxiety and confusion. Do you need to lower cholesterol, or perhaps need an increase of protein? What about lower lactose milk? Don’t forget about almond or soy milk.

The same trend occurred for margerine in the 80s and 90s, where the miracle substance responded to whatever health trend was happening at the time and mostly driven by the consumer’s fear, uncertainty, and doubt regarding their health.

This approach to marketing isn’t new, and nor will it stop. But with greater competition also comes a greater challenge with finding a consistent market share. There are now mattresses with zones of comfort, made from latex and memory foam, plush and regular, and a price range from $500-$10,000+.

What is apparent to me however, is that we are asking our customers to make decisions about things that they just really shouldn’t have to. This decision making is tiring, and ultimately unhelpful. For the most part people just want milk, and we complicate their ability to get just that.

It reminds me of one of the earliest books on usability that I read when beginning my carer, ‘Don’t make me think’ by Steve Krug. In his book Steve describes simlicity of design as being self evident:

‘…self-evident enough, for instance, that your next door neighbor, who has no interest in [your product] could look [the product] and say, “Oh, it’s a _____.” (With any luck, she’ll say, “Oh, it’s a _____. Neat.” But that’s another subject.)’

Being self evident also provides your audience the benefit of self discovery, and there are huge benefits to the satisfaction of products that provide this.

Coming back to milk for a second, being self evident would be being ‘just milk’. It’s a package that says just that. ‘100% Jersey Milk’ and leaves no questions.

I know what I’m getting when I buy it, and it is exactly what I wanted to buy. Simple.

By going outside of these boundaries and making our users think about the various options and capabilities we’re creating huge canyons between us and them.

For online shoppers the choice of postage is another example of how confusing the decision making can be. Not only are there various costs and speeds of delivery, but also a lack of knowledge around who the freight carrier will be. This makes the entire thing more complicated as the freight world tries to compete by offering unique delivery choices.

But by providing these as options and not clearly identifying the utility customers who quite simply want to receive their parcel as quickly and cheaply (if not free) as possible.
Shipping from helps simplify the experience with clear delivery options

In this scenario we’ve told the user exactly that; they are able to choose when and how they can receive their items.

By changing product strategies to be less niche or catch-all, and by simply providing customers with contextual and relevant decisions we can reduce their daily decisions and create much happier customers through better experiences.

Keeping decisions to a minimum through self evident design is good for customers and good for business.