We’ve all encountered good UX Design in the form of easy to use products. Sadly, we’ve all encountered bad design too. I’m not just referring to online interactions – it’s everywhere. I’m sure that if you think about it, you could come up a daily example of something that provides a poor user experience.
What do I mean by “poor user experience”? User Experience is a term that describes a person’s interaction with something. Back in the “good old days”, people referred to things that were easy to use as “user-friendly”. User experience is basically the same thing, though adopted to mainly focus on digital technology. but truly applies to anything and everything interactive, from your favorite online app to your basic coffee maker. Those of us who design things in a way that’s supposed to provide a positive user experience are called User Experience Designers (or UX Designers).
As UX designers, we go far beyond simply making things look cool. When planning a product or interface, we first study behavior, conduct research, build personas and collect analytic data, all in order to make more informed decisions when we design products or interfaces, ensuring users are provided with the best possible experience.
Good UX Design = Positive Experience = Brand Loyalty
So how can you tell if a product uses “good” design or not? It’s pretty easy. When you encounter an unfamiliar product or technology, essentially you need to teach yourself how to use it, and on some level every product’s interface is meant to serve as instruction. If that learning process can be made easier through a well thought-out design that relies on established interaction principles, standards and conventions, it will likely lead to a positive user experience.
Here’s a very simple example. When we see a button, we draw on previous experience and convention to help us understand that pushing it should act as a catalyst for some sort of action. If there’s an accompanying label, it should further help us to understand what action can be expected. When that interaction provides the outcome that the interface has led you to expect, then that’s good design. The result is a positive experience, and businesses understand that positive experiences play a major part in building brand loyalty. Pretty obvious.
You might think that when a person or company creates a new product, they would want to ensure good UX Design principles are applied, but for many reasons, that’s just not the case. You probably don’t have to think too hard to remember a time when you experienced frustration during an attempt to use a product because it wasn’t clear what you needed to do, or your interaction didn’t yield the expected result. ESPN had a bad night not too long ago due to some bad design decisions.
Bad design leads to a poor experience, which can ruin brand loyalty. For example, when the lease expired on my last vehicle, I chose to leave that brand for another because of the constant frustrations I had while interacting with it.
By being on the lookout for design failures, we can learn and grow as UX designers to ensure we’re not making the same mistakes, and potentially sabotaging our clients’ brands with the products we design for them.
Case Study: My Fridge
Whirlpool has been making fridges for a long, long time, and you’d think by now they’d have all the kinks worked out. Yet this interactive element of the crisper drawer is a great example of bad design.
Based on the wording “Humidity Control”, it’s implied that sliding this lever will have some sort of affect on the ambient humidity within that particular storage drawer. Most might even understand that the slider’s interface and labeling of “High” and “Low” is implying that the more it is moved one way or another, the more one can affect the degree of humidity. Yet there are several things wrong here.
- Because of poor labeling, it’s unclear what is actually going to happen when the slider is moved.
- The slider lever defies normal conventions by starting with High and moving to the right to set the level lower. This is the opposite of how such an interface would normally appear.
What may have been obvious to the designer of the fridge isn’t obvious to me. If I move the Humidity Control lever to “Less”, does that mean there will be less humidity? Or less control of the humidity (which would actually increase the humidity)? See the ambiguity? As the user, instead of being provided with clear instruction, I’m forced to make an assumption. If I’m wrong, there may be negative consequences, and clearly my experience with the Whirlpool brand will not be positive.
A little extra thought – just changing the label from “Humidity Control” to “Humidity Level” in the fridge example above – would instantly clear up any misconceptions and ensure no misinterpretation.
Learning From Others’ Mistakes
We see similar instances all the time when using products or software. Good designers take note of these encounters and learn not to make the same mistakes.
- Don’t defy conventions or standards.
- Clearly establish the result of an interaction.
- Ensure wording or visual instructions are not ambiguous.
- Always ensure feedback or results of an action meet expectations.