Picture this, one big hallway and many doors, you are tired and open the first door, there is a nice room a big beautiful chair and you sit in. However, there is no one else.
You sit for a while and then leave the room and the building. What is the surprise in this story is that just one door to the left to this door there is another door. This time many people were there, chatting and dancing.
How do you think the user would you feel when they find out?
This is an example of a user design mistake. The design has a flaw, and the architect tries to provide a fast fix by adding a lot of instructions. In computer science language, this is called user testing.
The story about my first time doing user testing.
The above anecdote reminds me of my first time conducting user testing, I was a student in the Technical University and even-though I graduate as Telecommunication Engineer; I was always fascinated by how things work and how technologies would contribute to the common good. Another passion of mine was programming and volunteering. I volunteered in an international student organization by developing featured to their internal portal, written in Java. We developed one feature and during one committee meeting we tested it with students who would eventually use it.
In our minds the feature was really easy to be used and the end user wouldn’t have any issues to navigate and work with it. Imagine our surprise when the first user needed some help to complete one action. Then the second and the third user. It was easy to blame the end user, but at the end they are the one who will use the feature and humans in general don’t read instructions. Think about when was the last time you read instructions and the privacy statements on a website were you just register?
My experience from a most recent case.
Many years forward, I am again designing user interaction system. This time I know better. Because of time constrains, I made the user flow not very intuitive. I decided to write simple instructions to the users.
I even send them a few reminders. Do you think they used the flow as it was intended? Of course not. They wanted to perform an action and move to their own daily lives, even if this action was partially correct. This proves yet again that instruction just doesn’t work.
Think about it, in your work do you need to write lengthy manuals to help your end user to manage your systems. Or most of the work can be performed on day 1?
What is the problem with no user-friendly systems?
People like to feel smart and in control. If you design something that is slow or over-complicated, few people will stick to it or even recommend your software to others. There are few positive examples such as Apply. I heard from a few people about their innovative keyboard and how great it was. I even was invited to demonstrations and I would agree that the touch bar changing depending on the context is pretty neat. This shows that user satisfaction is one of the best brand ambassadors. Your users will promote your service for free. On the other hand if your software or a service requires many steps, or it’s confusing, you risk the opposite effect. People wouldn’t complain publicly at work, but rest assure, no one will recommend your service to others. And this results in a loss of branding and financial opportunities.
What should you take away?
Like the story I begin with, it’s better to guide the user to the right door. Eliminate all the wrong options and help them to feel like the masters of the system or service you are delivering. To achieve that, the user testing and user centered design must be a top priority for startup companies and for huge enterprises alike. The benefits are massive. Free brand exposure and worth by mouth promotion. The consequences are also massive, users willing to switch your service at the first possible opportunity, cost of customer service, since a lot more tickets will be issues and in general lost customer relationship.
The best way to test a system is to find the end user, give them a task and see what they will do. Restrain yourself of giving an advice, explanation will wait and the end user will be the one to give you the right feedback. And in today’s competitive market, the customer relationship is more precious than gold!