The Seven Sins of User Experience Design

As UX professionals, there are certain mistakes that we absolutely can NOT allow ourselves to commit. We may be able to mention many of them, but for practical purposes (and easy association purposes, of course) I divided them into seven already well-known categories. Are you guilty of any of these?

Lust

“We have to use that new, super cool technology that was just released last week!”

“Flash is the key, a lot of animation attracts the users. And maybe some cool noises and great graphics”

A lustful sin in the user experience field is related to letting ourselves be dazzled by the technology we have at our disposition. Of course I’m not saying we shouldn’t use Adobe Flash, I’m just saying we shouldn’t just use it because it’s ‘cool’ or because the web designer in our team knows how to use it really well and is very enthusiastic about it.

Every use of technology should have a strategic reason behind it. If you are a designer working on your portfolio, then maybe Flash is the right choice for you because you want to show off your skills. But if you are a company looking to sell store credit online, you should focus on your page load times instead of your complex graphics. There may be no need for them at all.

Here are some articles that might help you decide:

Gluttony

“Which features? We should put all of the features we can! They are all cool features after all.”

“I know it is a lot of content, but it is all really important.”

We need to learn how to synthesize our content in general, be it features or written text, or even images (maybe we don’t need all of them).

Speaking about features and options, most of the times users don’t really appreciate so much flexibility. It gives them headaches rather than opportunities. Simplicity overcomes flexibility, always. Of course there should be flexibility at some degree, but it should be as simple for the user as possible. There was a very interesting conversation at the StackExchange UI forum, you might want to read more about it. I also talk about the topic on previous posts.

If we consider written content, Ginny Redish already has a great book that teaches us the process of Letting Go of the Words. She also gave a really good virtual seminar on behalf of User Interface Engineering, on which you can read my notes.

The main premise is that you should stick to the essentials, giving only what’s absolutely necessary and not everything you want the user to read or see. They most definitely won’t do it, anyway.

Related articles:

Greed

“Why pick a market segment? I want to sell my product to everybody!”

Are you familiar with the saying that goes ‘divide and win’? It is a lot easier (and a lot more probable) to convince a smaller group of people for many reasons:

  • You can divide them into frequent profiles (personas)
  • You can focus your advertising campaigns towards the traits you know they have
  • Your product’s design can be focused on what those selected people want from you

To sum up: you can know what you’re up against, what the people who want your product are expecting from your product and the best ways you should approach those needs. If you don’t have this information, who are you going to design for?

More on the subject:

Sloth

“Oops, I forgot to update our contents. It’s ok, I’ll just do it sometime around tomorrow… or next week…”

Being constant is important for various reasons, but the main one radicates on the direct relationship it has with the quality the users perceive in your website. If your contents seem out of date, they’ll portray your lack of compromise to your users. Like you don’t really care what you’re offering them. And if you don’t care, they won’t either, and they’ll stop visiting.

Wrath

“What do you mean ‘they don’t know how to use it’? They should just read the FAQ section, there’s everything they need to know!”

First of all, the Frequently Asked Questions section should be treated as a last resort, not a Must-Read sort of deal. It should be a final aid. After all, users aren’t much into reading a lot, remember?

Second, your website should be intuitive enough that anyone can use it. You shouldn’t blame it on the users. You should NEVER blame it on the users, because if they are doing something wrong, they surely aren’t doing it on purpose. They visit your website because they WANT to do so, and if they can’t, they become as frustrated (or even more) as you.

If you want to know more on the subject, you can read the following:

Envy

“We should not use that! That’s what our competitor is using and I hate them!”

“What do I care what users think about them? We are WE! Not them!”

Learning from the competitors and the users’ response to their web applications is actually a great way of getting feedback for our own designs. I can provide a quote by Jared M. Spool, which is actually one of the three questions he proposes to define a good way of approaching user experience design:

“In the last six weeks, have you spent more than two hours watching someone use your design or a competitor’s design?”

Notice how he proposes competitor’s as an equally important source of feedback as evaluating our own designs. Because, after all, we are competitors because we share the same target market. We ought to be doing some similar stuff we can learn from.

Pride

“Of course everyone should notice exactly what we did right. I expect lots of congratulations and positive feedback”

I’m sorry to break it to you, but as Jared himself said during both his Web App Masters Tour presentation and his most recently given Warm Gun Design presentation, good design is invisible. People won’t notice the good stuff, they’ll just feel satisified with the result. I’d say it is the equivalent of saying ‘If there are no news, it’s good news’.

So, in his own words:

“Good design is invisible.”

I know it sounds sort of sad, but our main goal isn’t to show off our good web designs. Our main goal is to deliver a good experience to our users, and help them achieve whatever it is they want to achieve by visiting our websites.

And, in the end, such goal is benefical for both of us, meeting not only their needs as users, but also our needs as a business. Making the website work as it should.