What scary movies teach us about UX?

Read Time
4 min read
Published On
October 31, 2018
Image Credits: Manu

A few days ago, I found myself watching the horror movie, IT. Despite enjoying the film, I struggled to explain what it was about the film that I really liked. So, I started thinking about it in greater detail.
Even then, I was unable to pinpoint what it was about that I really liked. So, I started to think why I enjoyed the whole horror genre. I began by drawing parallels between what I felt were important considerations to a quality user journey and active design principles, some of which I’ve listed below:

  1. Being Predictable:
    A popular sub-genre within horror is that of the slasher films. A running plot device in the slasher films of the 70’s and 80’s was that of person being chased through the woods by a masked killer.

    While majority of the times audiences knew what was going to happen, they still stay glued to their seats. Users tend to appreciate when things are kept as simple as possible. As a designer, it is encouraged to stay true to the problem that you are aiming to resolve.

  2. Knowing your User:
    There are countless horror franchises that have run their course either because they ended up becoming repetitive or redundant in their plotlines and style.

    A cardinal mistake that any UX designer can commit is to make the assumption that they are aware of their user’s wants. A great practice before launching a new product or feature is to possibly answer these questions:

    Who are your users?
    Are you addressing a significant problem?
    What other alternatives are there?

    If yes, how can I improve upon them? Even if you are competing with an existing product or service, it is recommended to research and identify other issues that can be solved in order to provide the user with a fulfilling experience.

  3. Eliminate the Noise:
    Growing up in the 90’s, almost everyone has seen at least one installment in the Scream series. The plot for the film series is relatively simple where a group of friends try and avoid being killed by an anonymous killer, hiding behind a ghostface mask.

    Imagine how complicated the story would’ve been if there was more than one villain, as the story would end up becoming rather convoluted making it difficult for the user to keep up with.

    As a designer, your aim should be to ensure that the interfaces that you are designing do not become overcrowded. You should be able to justify all of the elements that are there on that page.

    Some of the questions that designers may ask themselves to help them make this decision are:

    What purpose does this element serve on this screen?
    Is this piece of information vital to this page or screen?
    What can I do to make the navigation more seamless for the user?

There is definitely something valuable to be learned from this genre for anyone working in experience design. People are accustomed to seeing horror as a guilty pleasure, but after observing how it captivates audiences, designers would benefit from taking a few trips through the shadows...