Text different: 5 ideas for bringing a unique experience to messaging.

My thoughts on alternative texting experience to most-known and heavy-used messaging services.

First SMS message was sent in 1992, so more than 25 years ago. Despite (or due to) it’s simplicity and limitations it’s available on every mobile device nowadays — no matter it’s original Nokia 3310 (the year 2000) or brand new iPhone XS Max.

Simultaneously, most of us use feature-bloated services like iMessage, Messenger or WhatsApp. They allow us to send not only (longer) text messages, but photos as well… videos, GIFs, stickers, location, money… we can customize every conversation, see the activity status of our friends and the messages we sent. And more features are still coming.

Delivering many possibilities and offering more versatility, makes our experience less distinctive, not so unique. We could simply say:

More is less.

Constraints are a great way to boost the uniqueness of experience and the creativity of the user. Not only SMS messages’ 160-character limit does it; so does Twitter (with its tweet limitations), Instagram (with square photos) or Snapchat. I’m going to cover more on this topic in the separate story.

Thinking of constraints, I came up with a few ideas for text messaging, that force users to behave differently than they became accustomed, which brings them an exceptional experience.

1. Give more of yourself.

We get used to really short messages. Sometimes, they serve their purpose well; they are good when we are in a hurry or we want just to confirm something. Unfortunately, sometimes we expect to receive something more than just cold “OK”, we need an explanation, a bit of richer communication — not rarely more emotional.

The first idea seems to be straightforward — it is an inverted constraint of SMS:

Your messages should be at least 160 characters long.

With such rule, we would be forced to write longer messages, devote more time and attention to someone.

Your messages should be at least 160 characters long.

2. Walkie-talkie.

Isn’t it frustrating, when you try to answer your friend’s question and in the meantime he or she asks 5 more questions and starts 3 more threads? Isn’t it annoying? Wouldn’t it be nice to mute another person till you finish your message?

This idea is very simple and works like walkie-talkie:

You can’t type while your friend is typing. And vice-versa.

That would end chaotic conversations and interruptions.

You can’t type while your friend is typing. And vice-versa.

3. Calm down.

Emotions are good if managed properly. In intense conversations, they may cause a destructive and immediate outburst. Sometimes it’s good to take a few deep breaths before replying.

The rule for this idea would be:

You can’t reply to the message in 15 minutes since reading it.

That would give you enough time to calm down, think twice and respond wisely.

You can’t reply to the message in 15 minutes since reading it.

4. Time capsule.

Waiting for Christmas gifts is a very unique experience; even waiting for a delivery of your new Apple Watch Series 4 is exciting. What if we can make our friends wait for our messages?

This idea brings an additional feature to any message:

You can read the message only after the delivery date (set by sender).

Your friend would know something is coming but will have to wait to discover what it is.

You can read the message only after the delivery date (set by sender).

5. Walk your words.

We probably spend more time on social media than on walking during a day. What if we bind these two activities?

Walk more to write more. 1 step walked equals 1 character you can send.

In this case, bumping into other people while walking and staring at the phone would be entirely explainable.

Walk more to write more. 1 step walked equals 1 character you can send.

Besides the ideas above I had many others, that might enrich the messaging experience. Hopefully, you will find them interesting and possibly inspirational. I list some of them below.

  1. You can’t write during work hours.
  2. You can’t write from work.
  3. You can read a message only in a location it was sent from.
  4. You cannot write unless your friend responds.
  5. You can send only 1 message every 1 hour.
  6. You cannot write more than 10 messages per day with one person.
  7. You cannot write with more than 5 friends during a day.
  8. Your messages will be delivered in 24 hours.
  9. You cannot write while walking.
  10. Your messages are visible to everyone.
  11. Your message is sent to a random user.

By mentioning all the examples above, I don’t mean that such services should exist as an alternative to currently used ones. In my opinion, they just clearly show that the quality of the experience depends on the quantity of features offered — the fewer options service provides, the more unique the experience it delivers.

Less is more.

I know you might be tired of this phrase (adopted by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe), but I couldn’t resist, cause — as an architect — I believe it can be easily applied to both Architecture and UX Design.

Thank you.

This article was originally published at UX Collective magazine on Medium.

Creating products. 23.10.2018.
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