Microsoft UX Designer Joanna Ngai reveals 7 common user experience mistakes that can jeopardize your user interface and your final product experience.
There are key mistakes that can jeopardize the effectiveness of user experience. On a high level, design requires a lot of resources to plan, adjust and implement but the final results from great UX are a product that users love. It is the role of the UX designer to carefully architect a clear and concise mental model for the user to navigate.
Here are seven common UX mistakes to avoid:
1. Making Data a Design Crutch
Being data driven is a motto promoted by a majority of current product teams. While it is crucial to build your user experience with the guidance of data, metrics and customer feedback — data should not be used to lead design when it is meant to act as a tool in the toolbox of a designer. An unhealthy relationship with data results in poor design decisions due to a edge case customer interview or one mishap in a usability study. It is the role of a designer to not be data-lead but data-guided in their process.
2. Inventing Too Many New Patterns
Great designers utilize well known expectations for common positioning of keys, location of GUI and continuity based on common app or web patterns. While it may be a temptation to deliver new and innovative patterns, the basic rule of thumb is to always default to the commonly expected pattern whenever possible. Users come to your product/service with expectations from other apps, any deviation needs to be relearned and understood. Design patterns exist for a reason, to prevent the scenario that users have to relearn how to use a product from the onset every time they invest in something new. The onboarding bar becomes much higher with new, unfamiliar patterns making it more likely that engagement and usage is low.
3. Punishing Mistakes
Humans make mistakes, humans change their minds. They are impatient, and respond to feedback and hints as they navigate your product. By giving warnings, getting confirmation, authorization and allowing for undo, we can prevent user mistakes, allow the flexibility to change their mind and provide empathy for a mis-click of a buggy mouse. Another way to view punishing mistakes, is to prevent users from experiencing negative feedback due to incorrect decisions. A service that provides a free trial rather than bumping you up a subscription layer, gives empathy to the user by understanding they may or may not need the service but minimizes the risk of trying something new.
4. Buffering into the Abyss
Giving a sense of location, time and responsiveness is key to a user’s successful navigation of a product. For example, a user’s web experience when buffering ought to give a sense of progression — perhaps a loading bar, a wait time message of apology or a simple animation paired with a message.
5. Undervaluing UX Voice
UX voice must be consistent and represent the brand to your user. Using plain language, terminology and a persistent tone, attitude or personality, users will have better access to the meaning and value of what your product delivers.
However, it is a balancing act — the designer must resist the urge to add help messages and explanations when the underlying issues is a complex feature.
6. Misusing Usability Testing
Evaluation of design decisions needs to be paired with a skill usability researcher. In the case that a researcher is not available, it is still necessary to do smaller scale testing early in the project and after a significant rev on the design process. It is less important to test which shade of blue the users prefer, and more important to test based on use cases. Users must be able to perform key tasks successfully and effectively without being stumped by endless buffering, being punished for mistakes and incomprehensible navigation.
Not only must users be selected carefully to be representative of the target audience, it’s important to prototype effectively for the type of study you propose. Communicate closely with your researcher and both sides will be happy. Use robust tools like Axure, Flinto, Justinmind or InvisionApp.
7. Bloating Design
Creeping functionality due to delay between specification and delivery can lead to a bloated design. By the time the product makes it to market, it is absolutely critical to establish the most common use cases and provide a convincing value prop to your users. Avoid clutter and unnecessary content by only adding what is meaningful and necessary. The design process should: go wide, refine, iterate and distill till your product or service provides a high quality business solution.
Joanna Ngai is a UX Designer at Microsoft with a passion for illustration. She enjoys sharing her design and illustration work and writing on medium. When she’s not designing, she creates artwork on everyday items.