Folk Interfaces and UX Black Markets

Some time ago I wrote about what I called UX Black Markets: Users hacking or sidestepping the official system because the official system doesn't provide the desired functionality. The name never sat well with me, it was too negative… but it was the best name I had for what I was observing… until I read Maggie's delightful article:

Folk interfaces are when users reappropriate existing software to solve their own problems. Rather than using applications in the ways designers and developers intended, they creatively reconfigure them to do unexpected things.

I love this phrasing. It accurately captures the crafty people and practices that come under this banner. I still think I'll use "UX Black Markets" as a phrase to help me find Folk Interfaces… the product-side of a business often has an adversarial relationship with Folk Interfaces, and talking about Black Markets has been useful for sniffing them out. ("Where is your intention being subverted? What is that user trying to do?")

Speaking on the mindset of folk interface creators:

You can look at an interface and see it as a clearly signposted user journey you should follow. Or you can see it as a collection of functions and affordances to repurpose. As raw material, rather than a guided path.

I think this is spot on. Looking at the world around you as raw material is full-on maker-mindset. Considering the creative folk makers in our userbase as allies and not adversaries is really fun and helpful, although they are hard to spot without empathetic qualitative user research. As designers and developers we should welcome our folk interface artists into the fold as fellow creators and discoverers of value… they are building the product the need to exist.

Lovely article, please read and give Maggie a follow.

Folk Interfaces -

  • 2022-08-29 07:35:33 -0500
    adjust date so build

  • 2022-08-29 07:27:53 -0500
    Adjusting a sentence

  • 2022-08-28 21:27:35 -0500
    Rename to next day

  • 2022-08-28 21:26:29 -0500
    Updating the article

  • 2022-08-28 20:55:01 -0500