Friction increases negative thoughts in most designer’s minds. When you ask designers, most of them will tell you that friction negatively affects the user experience (UX) since it slows down interactions, impedes progress, and reduces conversions. Nowadays, frictionless design is the new business goal. Designers appear to be obsessed with the idea of going from A to B in the smoothest, fastest, and most effective way. 

While friction is a barrier in some website journeys, it can also be helpful in helping users understand what is important and how to make the right choice.

Friction can be helpful in the following scenarios:

  • Friction to protect users
  • Friction as a rewarding part of an experience
  • Friction to build trust and credibility
  • Friction as a means to understand and absorb information


Although we want to keep users satisfied, we are also obligated to ensure they are making an informed decision.

Consider the following example:

Anna has rapidly gone through her banking app, checking her balance after several payments have cleared her account. Since she has a reasonable amount left over, she figures now is a good time to pay back John the money she owes him. Anna finds him in a list of her saved payees and enters $50. However, she accidentally adds a zero bringing her total to $500 instead of $50.

It’s not a problem that checking her balance is a quick process, because it should be. Yet, that same pace isn’t optimal for making payments. Mistakes made here can have significant consequences and adding friction for this type of transaction can help protect users from paying the wrong amounts.

Imagine friction as another design tool. As authors set the reading pace with punctuation, you manage the tempo at which your users move through their online experience. The difference between irritating friction and useful friction is the deliberateness behind it. Accidental friction is often described as the former, while purposefully designed changes of pace can be helpful.


Numerous creatives and gamers will attest, the appropriate amount of friction can create a more gratifying experience.


When you upload a photo on Instagram, you don’t want to post it and be done with it. When this feature was designed, they could have kept it to a two-click solution, assuming users would want to post images as quickly as possible as they happen. Instead, the platform allows you to experiment with fun filters until your heart is content and then do one final review before sharing your content with the world.


Consider the purchase of a Tesla. When the luxury electric vehicles first rolled out, you had to be referred by a friend and be added to an 18-month waitlist before taking delivery of your vehicle. The friction alone was not satisfying, but the feeling of exclusivity made the experience rewarding and increased the luxury factor for the brand. Usually, when you spend more money on an item, you perceive it to be of higher quality — the same rule can apply here.


Waiting for an application to load can be really frustrating. But for the right product, this can serve as evidence of a credible and trustworthy experience. Facebook has been known to slow down loading times in order to evoke more trust from the audience. People think that if the platform spends more time “thinking,” then the algorithms must be complex, personalized, and specific to the data that has been input. This technique is also relevant for a product claiming to provide personalized service. 


The friction-as-always-bad fallacy often subscribes to the theory that the fewer clicks or energy exerted by the user, the better. However, this rule quickly crumbles when applied to journeys which demand the user absorb copious details or make considered decisions. Thinking “fast is always better” is incorrect since you risk compromising clarity for the sake of rushing someone from point A to point B.

Customers want consistent, relevant, and simple experiences across all interactions throughout the experience lifecycle. Gone are the days when interacting with customers was primarily a face-to-face, on the phone, or in-store. Engaging customers is a lot more complex today. The business has moved from the traditional sales cycle to a buying cycle where control of the relationship is now very much in the hands of the empowered consumer. That is why the user experience matters more than ever before

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.
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