We all remember how the Internet looked a few decades ago. What we now consider key-concepts, such as User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI), were yet a mirage and all websites looked like a multiplayer version of Notepad.
Fortunately, technology evolved and so did web-design. Visually speaking, everyone wants to lead the race, providing top-notch websites with astonishing interfaces. However, concerning user experience, there's still a lot of room for improvement.
We’ve seen before how good UX can – and will – be determinant in some markets, but here I’ll look at it from the other side. What exactly does bad UX look like and how are we affected by it?
From smaller businesses to high-end companies, no one is really immune to those serious UX design mistakes with potentially fatal consequences.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE DETAILS
I dare anyone to try and remember exactly where the Discover Weekly playlist is in Spotify without opening the app. We acknowledge its existence and we sometimes like to listen to it, but it’s not even a bit intuitive where we should start looking.
Your Daily Mix? Radio? Browse? Stations?
So many options, so little time.
Nabeel Khalid illustrates the Spotify experience perfectly in his article where he states that "if you’ve ever tried to search for a specific track, and then found yourself several levels deep inside a random album, you’ll be wondering how do I exit this mess? What do I do now?"
Providing a clear and intuitive way to access all available options is essential to make users happy and it isn't as hard to achieve as it might seem. Don't improvise. Adapt, overcome.
Although there’s a lot more to discuss about Facebook’s privacy right now, I’ll focus only on the user experience here. It might seem odd that we have to do a whole journey to find out how to change simple privacy settings but, then again, that might be the whole point.
Despite its purpose, this annoys users, providing them an experience that they would like to be very different. It’s hard to find the privacy settings, hard to find out what we want to change and hard to understand exactly if the option we’ve selected is working out as it should.
There are too many options that look alike, some are very unclear and others that we are afraid of even getting close to. It should go without saying, but when users want to avoid certain pages of your website, you're doing something very wrong.
It's not only about the privacy settings either. We would sooner find Waldo than the multiple message boxes that are available, especially on the mobile version.
There's an inbox for messages from those in our friends list, one for those who are not our friends and another one for filtered messages. And they are all in different places. While the division might be understandable, the way it's implemented falls short.
Google, the big company that's ahead of the game in almost everything they do, including in design standards, isn't flawless either, as some may think. While most of its products are well-designed and easy to use, Google Analytics is still a mess that's way too hard to deal with.
Analytics provides us with some of the most relevant data concerning user behavior and, ironically, it's a pain for users to understand without spending a great deal of time figuring it out.
Try setting a goal, as some messages constantly encourage you to, and you'll stumble upon a series of options to pick from with very little explanation for each. The same happens when trying to set a custom report, with way too many options to pick from.
Explorer? Map overlay? Metric group? Dimension drilldowns?
Analytics compiles a huge amount of data and designing a website to make it all available is a herculean task. However, there's few companies that would be as capable of dealing with it as Google is. It would be a good opportunity to use all the data they're collecting with their own tools.
Too big to fail
Chances are that these simple mistakes will not affect companies at this level, and most users will keep using their products, despite being annoyed by the multiple obstacles that the UX designers left for people to stumble. However, it's probably enough to seal the fate of a brand new product from a small company.
The bottom-line is to understand your ideal user and to make sure that everything in your product is behaving as it's expected to. This does take time to achieve, but every second working on it is valuable.
IT’S ALL OVER THE PLACE
Not everything that goes wrong comes down to bad UX design, but there's something in common through all the examples that I've provided here: things are not working the way users intend them too.
It's a long list of conditions that should be met in order to provide a good user experience, but it's, undoubtedly, worth the effort. There's really no reason to not play it safe.
Assume less, research more and make your ideal user a happy user.
It might be questionable that all UX design flaws are really unwanted and sometimes what seems like a mistake is in fact a way of driving users to a certain page or option.
This is a question that might be larger than the topic here, but users don't like to be herded and won't react in a positive way once the truth behind some decisions comes up. The lack of clarity concerning Facebook privacy was just a minor issue until everything blew up recently.
Probably most of the companies are really only doing innocent mistakes and we shouldn't be questioning everything either. However, every time someone misjudges the importance of UX, the consequence is the same:
Users get angry.
You should get angry.