I keep questioning myself on why sometimes I am able to connect to an experience that’s been presented to me and some other times I get stuck in my mind, thinking non-stop about anything other than what surrounds me. It’s pretty common for me to be in a place, aware of what’s going on, talk to people and not necessarily be there in spirit. My mind just wont stop. My thoughts can be related to what’s playing in front of me, but I just can’t help it: if the experience is not strong enough, my mind wanders around.
One thing that occurred to me a few years ago is that children seldom have this behaviour. If you look closely to a child, you’ll notice that they engage, connect and get into flow in much more experiences than grown-ups. They stare, pay attention to everything and smile to lots of things that really seem banal to adults. All that laugher and joy is so real and true that affects people around in a positive way.
I have not done research on what I’m going to write here, but it seems pretty logical that the younger you are, more are the things you have to discover and learn. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that discovering and learning can be rewarding for their own sake and have the qualities to get someone in flow.
If you think of your last trip to a place you have never been before, or something you did for the first time even as an adult, high are the chances that you were in flow by the time you were doing it. When you play a video-game (for us that still play after all these years), each level is something new and you have to discover and learn your way to reach your goal.
That said, an experience that is unique, new and offers the chance of discovering and being surprised offer more chances to get someone in flow.
It is important to be aware that uniqueness and surprise can come in many ways. A website can be very usable, with traditional navigation, and bring surprise in it’s contents or in a new feature for example. A product can have the same features - or even less - and bring novelty. The iPhone was just like that. People awed when learning how to zoom in with your fingers on its screen. Why many adults behave like a child when using iPhone for the first time?!
Finally, details. There’s a great feeling of discovery and surprise that can happen more than once when you are using a product, a website, watching a presentation, staring at a logo or at someone impeccably dressed: when you find the details. I do believe in the quote “Life is about details”. A well-designed detail can capture you out of your routine, bring delight and change the way you experience something. They are like salt and pepper for food. They give taste to the ordinary.
In my opinion we should always look for innovation and to bring novelty in our designs. We might not find exactly what we were looking for, but we still can use salt to give a little taste and improve the experience.