Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Friction is a Good Thing

I finally broke down and upgraded my iPod Touch so I could download apps. As a part of the process, I had to sign up for an iTunes account and enter a credit card number. I'm fine with purchasing things online, but this felt strange.

When I purchased the upgrade, I didn't feel like I had bought something. I didn't have to enter a credit card number - which usually gives me time to re-think my purchase - since Apple already had mine on file. I didn't even have to take out my wallet. I just clicked a button. Apple was paid. I received my app. There was no friction. It was way too easy. Actually, it was so easy that it frightened me. Now I don't want to go back. I'm afraid that I'll buy more stuff.

This fear of buying too much is the same fear that prevents me from signing up for Amazon's 1-click shopping. It's existence has also prevented me from buying a kindle (even though I read voraciously). I generally like to think that I have a good sense of self-control, but when buying is as frictionless as iTunes and Amazon 1-click make it, I feel like I could accidentally buy something. That's not a good feeling.

I like the friction, and I don't want it to go away.

The best thing about friction - we can introduce it before we're tempted. I refuse to sign up for 1-click shopping. Some people leave credit cards at home so they aren't tempted to buy when they don't have money. Fred Wilson leaves his cash at home to prevent him from making $2-$3 purchases.

Some people view these tricks as silly tactics for the weak minded. They're not. They are intelligent ways to increase purchase frictions, and often extra friction gives us the time to make a better decision.