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Discover the UX secrets behind Tinder

Tinder interview Scott Hurff

Scott Hurff is Tinder's product manager and lead designer

When it comes to looking for web design inspiration (opens in new tab) you could do a lot worse than looking to Tinder for tips. With its 'swipe right' mechanic having become a phrase outside of the app itself, Tinder is clearly built on strong UI design (opens in new tab). To discover some of the UX secrets behind the app, we spoke to Tinder's lead designer Scott Hurff.

How do you keep an eye on how effective the UX is at Tinder?

The primary focus of the product team's mission is to make the Tinder experience as fun, productive, and endearing as possible. Putting yourself out there in a dating-like context can be really stressful.

I'm lucky to be a part of a team that includes Jonathan Badeen. He's the guy who invented the 'swipe right' (and left), and his worldview has always been to make people feel as comfortable as possible.

In your new book Designing Products People Love, you talk about "screen-lickable products". What do you mean by that?

At the time I was quoting Steve Jobs and his supposed outburst when he saw the Aqua version of OS X ( (opens in new tab)). I just love that emotional reaction. Product designers all hope and wish for that moment where somebody goes, "Wow, that's exactly what I hoped for."

In the past few years, products have been devalued because consumer technology enables cheap distribution. Lots of tech companies treat products more like toys, because if something dies, it's easy to discard.

I reject the notion that everything lives or dies by a viral loop, or just because something is pretty. Products exist to alleviate people's problems, period. What's important is the experience someone has when using something you've created.

Of course, aesthetics have their place. Aesthetics can improve trust, reinforce a product's value, and demonstrate empathy.

How can designers sift out the good stuff and stay relevant?

Designers need to step up and help teach each other what they've learned. There's a phrase somebody told me recently: "Don't compare your insides to somebody else's outsides." We can only learn so much by downloading the latest apps or breaking down someone else's code.

The beauty of the internet is that it's an open place, and it was built on the backs of people who shared their ideas and experiences. That's the best way for the digital product design industry to move forward.

Tinder website

Scott believes products exist to alleviate people's problems

You've spoken about designer's exaggerated focus on the 'ideal state'. How can designers ensure they look further afield?

The ideal state is only one piece of what I call 'the UI stack'. There are four other states: partial, error, loading and blank. Really, every screen has every state caught up in it. Screens need to be designed to seamlessly move between each state.

So I challenge product designers everywhere to do the work to account for these states, for every screen and in every flow they create.

You wrote a blog post entitled 'How to design for thumbs in the era of huge screens'. How has this new era challenged and changed the way you work?

It's opened my eyes to the importance of ergonomics. I had always wondered why I was annoyed that the 'Done' button was at the top of
the phone, and to use it I had to contort my hand into some weird prop you'd see in Hook or something. That's what led me to think through things like thumb zones and how UI elements can be placed to be the most convenient for thumbs.

Research shows that's how most people hold their phones: with one hand and one thumb that drives. People do, of course, re-orient the phone almost without knowing it to accomplish certain tasks, but the thumb is the primary driver. I'm now researching tap target sizes, and why big buttons just feel better than tiny little ones.

This interview was originally published in net magazine (opens in new tab) issue 278.

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Sammy Maine was a founding member of the Creative Bloq team, working as a Commissioning Editor. Her interests cover graphic design in music and film, illustration and animation. Since departing, Sammy has written for The Guardian, VICE, The Independent & Metro, and currently co-edits the quarterly music journal Gold Flake Paint.