[WiP] Build for Humans
I’ve wanted to write about all the frustrating things I see that actually harm people. I’d thought of writing it about designing apps for older people, but I realized that it’s not just old people. These design failures are bad for everyone who hasn’t done it all before. I use humans to refer to people who aren’t ‘in the know’ about how the thing works.
The features for a screen should be obvious on the screen. I shouldn’t need to go through so many menus and sub lists. If I’m dumb, I won’t understand why I can’t see the feature I want to use.
Most apps, services, equipment assumes a level of understanding that the app is built on. Yet, most users of apps aren’t software developers and designers. But the people building those apps are.
Abstract Icons and Acronyms
New apps and Web Services are beautiful and confusing. Icons are often abstractions rather than universal signs. When labels are used they often include acronyms rather than clear single word descriptions.
No single step actions
All the features/actions possible are hidden within menus and sub menus, so when you open the app there isn’t a clear way to do anything than what is infront of you. Ironically, the best user experience of most apps/services is the login screen; the required action is obvious and aligns with what the user wants to do and it only takes one step.
There seems to be a corporate disease that forces people to believe they need things that they don’t. A lot of apps are a good website made worse. Or a phone call made more time consuming. Each feature and the app/service itself has to create value in some way for the user. Loose that and no matter what your app will fail.
The majority of applications and services don’t require a login experience to fulfil the user needs. Yet every user has to register for an account. If that account has anything sensitive, then you will offer 2 factor authentication or as I like to say “so secure even you can’t login”. Complicated, disconnected steps do help make the service more secure and horrible to use at the same time.
Wouldn’t it be better for the service to simply save your work into a local file that gets refreshed each time you visit the site? Then your files are as secure as your desktop. This is likely a horrible example but there is a complete lack of new ideas in this space. Everything is social media login or 2 factor or email link. Can’t we innovate around no login required?
Pretty, Non-Functional Images
Sometimes feature-hover-over instructions will have a helpful graphic together with a short description. This works great when the graphics make sense. Yet often the look of the graphic is prioritized instead of the functionality or understandability.
Design for Failure
Expect that whatever you build will break/be broken, so make sure it will still work in those situations. I built a wooden truck with my kid. The back of the truck moves like a dump truck and rotates on two narrow wooden dowels. While building it I expected that they would break. Within a day the dowels broke just from normal play with the truck. I fixed it by replacing the dowels with nails.