I hadn’t thought of the digital book experience in terms of containment before, but as a designer it is a powerful attribute to recognize. Holding a physical book in your hand, with no other apps and nothing to tap on, makes it a contained experience. By contrast, an electronic book on, say, an iPad is not as contained. I can easily switch to another app or get distracted by a notification. A “webified” book on such a device is even less contained. Hyperlinks, video, notes from other readers: all can add some value to the experience over a physical book, but they come at the cost of focus.
Isn’t there value in designing self-contained experiences, even if the constraints that make it up are self-imposed?
So, something to ponder: just because we can almost infinitely expand a physical experience when we move it into a digital realm, should we? Isn’t there value in designing self-contained experiences, even if the constraints that make it up are self-imposed? In visual design, constraints are one of my favorite tools and I don’t believe that should be any different when designing experiences, digital or otherwise.
It is in this manner that I believe the internet—and most digital technology—is still very much in its infancy. I’m generalizing a bit, but on the whole we—those of us that build the web and software—are spending most of our time trying to add things as we take pre-digital experiences and bring them online. This isn’t bad, but I can’t say it’s unequivocally good, either. We’ll all figure this out over time, but it never hurts to try to lead the charge now.