Elliot Rylands

Staff Product Designer

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The Sushi Principle: What Conveyor Belt Sushi Can Teach Us About UX Design

Jun 19, 2023

Hello, all you tech connoisseurs and design enthusiasts out there! Today, we're going to indulge in something a little more savoury and delicious. Yes, you guessed right! We're off on a gourmet journey, but rest assured, we won't stray too far from our beloved realm of UX design. So grab your chopsticks and make sure your wasabi tolerance is up to snuff because we're about to dive into the delightful world of conveyor belt sushi (also known as kaiten-zushi), and the valuable lessons it offers us UX aficionados.

The Whirling World of Kaiten-Zushi

Before we merge into the expressway of design, let's take a quick detour into the bustling streets of Tokyo, where the concept of conveyor belt sushi originated. In the late 1950s, restaurateur Yoshiaki Shiraishi, struggling with a staff shortage, sought inspiration from the assembly lines of a beer brewery. He came up with a revolutionary idea: what if sushi, instead of being served by sushi chefs, was brought to customers on a conveyor belt? This way, sushi could be mass-produced, yet personalised, and customers could freely choose what they wanted. This brainwave gave birth to the first kaiten-zushi restaurant, an instant hit and an enduring icon of Japanese food culture.

The Sushi-UX Confluence

In essence, kaiten-zushi is about providing a seamless and personalised user experience, while maintaining efficiency. Starting to sound familiar, UXers? Let's explore this similarity further.

1. Visual Appeal - First Impressions Matter

Stepping into a kaiten-zushi restaurant, one is immediately captivated by the vibrant array of sushi parading on the conveyor belt. It's all about the visual feast. UX design is no different. An appealing, intuitive interface piques user interest, encouraging exploration. Just like that enticing roll of sushi tempts you to reach out and take it, a well-designed user interface entices users to interact.

2. Choice and Personalisation - Catering to Everyone

Whether you're a die-hard tuna fan or an adventurous sea urchin eater, kaiten-zushi caters to all. You have the autonomy to pick your plates, making your meal as humble or as grandiose as you wish. In the realm of UX, offering users choices and customisation fosters a sense of control and satisfaction. Whether it's customisable dashboard layouts or optional notification settings, personalised user experiences are the way to go!

3. Efficiency and Accessibility - Sushi at Your Fingertips

One of the biggest advantages of kaiten-zushi is efficiency. You don't need to catch a waiter's attention or wait for your order. The sushi comes to you. Similarly, efficient and accessible UX design ensures that users can quickly and easily find what they need. No one likes to sift through a poorly designed, over-cluttered website, just as no one wants to chase after a sushi chef!

4. Predictability and Transparency - What You See is What You Get

With kaiten-zushi, the guesswork is removed. You see the sushi, you pick up the plate, you enjoy the meal. It's a predictable, transparent system. Users, too, appreciate predictability and transparency in their interactions with digital platforms. Clear navigation, consistent design elements, and understandable responses to user actions – these are the staples of a well-designed UX, as reassuring as spotting your favourite sushi roll approaching on the conveyor.

5. Continuous Improvement - There’s Always Room for Another Roll

Just as the sushi chefs are always preparing fresh batches of sushi to add to the conveyor, UX design is a never-ending process of improvement, with iterative testing and refining based on user feedback. As user needs and preferences change over time, so must the design.

So, there you have it! The humble conveyor belt sushi, as it turns out, is not just a gastronomic delight but also a gold mine of UX design principles. Who knew that sushi could provide such rich food for thought? From your next sushi venture, remember to not just savour the taste, but also chew over the UX insights it offers. Who knows, the sushi principle might just roll you into your next breakthrough design! 🍣🥢

© 2024 Elliot Rylands

© 2024 Elliot Rylands