Missing The User Experience
Posted by: Steve Weiss
Our team was racing through a project, a goal tracking app for companies based on individual employee goals and criteria a company would be graded on. We had already gone through several iterations, created mockups, implemented those designs, and had a good amount of functionality working. This thing was looking great! But during a meeting reviewing the current progress, the tone changed.
The overall tone from those who had not interacted with the app on a daily basis was "Wait, how does this thing work?" We had glossed over a very important concept: Usability. It's quite a big concept, but an easy one to miss when your head is down and you're focused on bringing an app to production.
Viewing an app from the perspective of a user can be difficult. It requires you to not only have functionality in mind, but to also second guess all of your work. If you make a decision on where to place a button or what to label a text field, will the majority of users understand what it's trying to accomplish? What about a first time user who has never seen the product before? Try to put aside all the hours you have spent viewing these pages and go back to square one.
We realized that many things needed labeling. We needed more buttons. We needed to create a first time sign in flow. (remember the Microsoft Word Paperclip/Wizard?) These things all required more work. It's an interesting dilemma to balance. Do you have the goal of making an app as simple and user friendly as possible so it's just so intuitive that anyone could pick it up? Or do you enter the process with a first time set of instructions in mind? It depends on the functionality, your design, and the opinions of your client. It's a complicated mix!
Sometimes the best solution is showing the app to someone who hasn't worked with it before, and just see how easy it is to navigate through. There is no substitute for actual interaction. Also, drop all defenses, because no explanation or justification should be necessary. You won't be sitting next to a user while they're clicking around.
Just imagine the frustrating image of being enclosed in a soundproof cube, watching a user interact with your product. You can't say or do anything. Now, do you beam with pride at your fantastic and intuitive user experience, or do you pound on the glass of this mythical cube in frustration (not unlike Bill Murray as the Ghost of Christmas Past in the cinematic classic "Scrooged")? Just something to keep in mind.