‘Crunch points’ are interruptions to flow. They make us stop short of our goal.
It’s the whirling colour wheel on your MacBook. The train that stops short of a destination. Complicated arrangements for tickets. Machines that don’t accept your cash or card.
It’s being put on hold. Needing to change terminals. Waiting to cross the road. ‘Signing in’ and being collected. Filling in forms.
The opposite of ‘crunch points’ are ‘seamless experiences’.
Here the complexity is out of sight. Systems connect. Things are intuitive. It’s effortless.
Seamlessness relies on great design.
Little by little, or in great leaps, our world is moving toward seamless experiences.
Homes adjust around our preferences for lighting, music, heat. Street lights brighten up as we come near. Taps sense our hands. Cars find the driver.
In a seamless world, transport systems bend around the traveller. Idiosyncratic journeys flow intuitively.
Helsinki is planning for seamless public transport to be fully realised by 2025.
Amazon has eliminated the need for cashiers in shops and supermarkets.
All over the world entrepreneurs are searching out everyday ‘crunch points’ and finding ways to eliminate them. Cities are competing to be ‘seamless’ with smart city programs.
As seamlessness becomes natural to us, ‘crunch points’ will become more surprising. We know systems can work – why don’t they?
The systems ‘left behind ‘ will feel increasingly strange. We’ll notice them. Local government? Hospitals? Universities? Government departments?
Often it will be people at their most vulnerable that will feel it the most. Those who can’t just glide through because their credit isn’t up to scratch.
Those forced to join the queues that continue to exist. Victims of rogue algorithms.
So what values will underpin our seamless world? What interactions will be lost? How much will we need to give up?
And when we’re arrived, will we look back at crunch points with nostalgia?
Will we start to design them back in, just for fun?