The Unspoiled Notebook: Overcoming Fear of Imperfection

Unbounded possibility can be daunting- and not just because of decision paralysis. A blank slate can be formidable especially if it’s well-designed. Take Moleskine notebooks – many folks can’t bring themselves to write on that first page. Why? Because of the unbounded beauty that an unspoiled Moleskine represents. The fear that whatever you start writing and recording is not going to be worthy of the container. Empty = potential. Whatever you write can be judged and there’s no turning back.

After assuming I was alone in this neurotic predicament (sometimes a notebook is just a notebook), coincidentally several people mentioned to me recently that the nicer the notebook, the worse their work. This got me thinking about interface design and whether users face the same stress when encountering the customization of a profile page or other default template? Drawing on my personal experience there were at least a few instances where people seem to carry this same baggage to digital world, but also some ways that designers can help us out.

Fear of Looking Silly

  • At Second Life we found that users were really self-consciousness about seeing other people until they felt presentable
    • a) changing some of their basic appearance
    • b)learning enough about the key controls to move around and avoid embarrassing bumping into others
  • So we moved avatar customization up in the orientation flow and also made it clear that people could practice in a safe space where they weren’t seen by others, then could debut when they were ready.

Fear of Making Things Worse

  • Clearly marked “undo” button that works reliably plus “restore defaults” (the nuclear undo), seem to make people more willing to experiment because restoring to order is just a click away.

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