On walkabout in life and technology

User Experience Shmecsperience

We designers of software spend a lot of our time thinking about user experience. We try to eliminate complexity, simplify interactions and to create delightful experiences.

Reality: Most users don’t care about experience.

We, who make and live in software, value such software, value our time and seek out such experiences. We understand how hard it is to make them. We take the time to learn products and find ways to integrate them into our lives.

Reality: Most users just want to get something done and go home.

We communicators of software take the time to make our icons pretty, our layouts typographically correct, our documentation structured and our charts clear. And we seek out others who do the same. And deride those who do not.

Reality: Most users do not RTFM1 or even see the changes.

We seek out the best products that suit our needs, continually testing others to see if they are better for us. We read about and discuss the benefits and nuttiness of products to help us choose. And we refine the processes we use to make us more efficient or just happier.

Reality: Most users use what they are given or is cheapest or what they learned first.

In the real world, users use Windows and Excel for everything and Powerpoint for everything they cannot do in Excel. Or they use whatever they get on their phone or tablet that the carrier salesperson recommended.

They are not interested in the experience of using the software or in having it change. They want to do what they do, get it done and do something else. They do not want to spend time learning or experimenting, they want to get trained and then jump right in and have that training last a lifetime.

That does not mean we designers and developers and communicators should stop doing what we do. Our work has made phones and computers and amazing new services available to these users, and created the initial experiences that they now understand and expect. Users now know how to use touch screens and swipe around and communicate in short sentences.

But they still expect mail clients to be mail clients (and as much like Outlook as possible), browsers to have the URL bar at the top (just like Netscape did), spreadsheets to be Excel like, to do everything else in Powerpoint and to find whatever they are trained in to remain constant.

We may have adopted the cool new mail client, Markdown and Soulver, but they will not. Because they do not care. They can get what they want done they way they do now, no matter how long it takes or how convoluted the process.

For most of our customers, as long as it works without crashing and they know how to use it, it’s good enough.

That does not mean that it should remain good enough for us. We do care. And even though these real users will not normally notice it (and put up a fight when they do), our work does make things easier, faster and better for them. And that’s why we do it.

They may think “Experience Shmecsperience”, we know better. And I am glad we do.

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter and @hiltmon on App.Net. Mute #xpost on one.

  1. Read The Ferblenzende Manual