User Experience – Dispelling Five of the Most Common Myths
What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘User Experience’?
Difficult to understand? Impossible to tame? UX can be compared to a big, mythical beast. In reality, the main elements of UX are common sense. But that’s not to say that anybody can do it.
UX isn’t a new concept. American researcher, Don Norman, coined the term ‘user experience’ in 1993, but the concept of UX can be tracked back as far as 4000 BC. Most of us have done some UX in some shape or form, although we might not have labelled it as UX.
Our fear of embracing UX is often fuelled by misconceptions. In this post, we take a closer look at some of these misconceptions and dispel five of the most common UX myths.
#1 – UX is expensive
This is a popular theme when it comes to User Experience. However, the cost of not creating a good UX is likely to be much more expensive.
Many business owners are beginning to realise the value of UX. However, some still believe that developing features without proper research or testing will save them money.
While fast-paced development and getting things to market are undoubtedly important, it’s vital to find a middle ground. Developers must be allowed the time and resources they need to build research-driven, user-tested products with well-designed user experiences, fine-tuned features and silky-smooth interactions.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to have fast-paced development cycles and get to market quickly. But by investing more time in UX research and design, you reduce the risk of launching something that will inevitably need to be redeveloped.
Countless change requests later, the money you ‘saved’ by not researching and testing will quickly be consumed by development costs. Even worse, your customers may find a competitor who has invested in UX, and is, therefore, able to offer a product or service that better meets their needs.
#2 – Users can tell us what they want
They can – but the information they give is often out of context in terms of the situation and environment. User views are often based on their imaginary experience of a hypothetical product or service.
If it was that simple, our User Experience Researchers would be asking for solutions, instead of identifying problems. Real value is added by learning to observe users and user research methods to understand their behaviour, without directly asking them what they want.
We’re not saying you should stop listening to your users – far from it. It’s more about how you ask, and how you extract and interpret their answers. That’s how you will gain better insights.
Asking a user what feature they want, will give you an answer based on their recollection of a personal experience or belief. It’s still relevant, but it’s not a definitive answer. By watching a user perform a specific task, you can observe patterns and responses to problems, based on behavioural data.
Feedback is important in all forms. If you’re gathering verbal feedback, this should always be explored in more detail – don’t just take what’s being said at face value. Dig deeper and re-create scenarios to learn more. Ask ‘why’ to get to the root of the problem – this will allow you to develop a solution to the actual issue, not just a user’s imaginary problem.
#3 – Users don’t scroll
With ever-changing screen sizes and the increase in popularity of mobile devices, scrolling is standard practice for most users. That said, we shouldn’t assume that all users will automatically scroll.
As User Experience Designers, we must encourage users to scroll – it’s our job to create engaging content that will entice users to continue scrolling. Long-form content, like storytelling, is a good example. It lends itself to scrolling, but only if you create a decent hook to engage users. After the hook, you must guide the user further down the page by breaking up the content with headings, imagery and other visual cues.
The myth of users not reading is a topic for another post, but it’s pertinent when it comes to scrolling behaviour. We live in a time-poor world, which means we often browse in a hurry. That means we scan through pages until we find something we consider important enough to read word for word. Getting users to scroll is one challenge – the other is engaging the user.
Providing structure to your content will help to create focus points, where users will naturally scroll to. This can be achieved with visual cues, for example, background colours or imagery that sit just above the page fold, or a scroll icon to let the user know there is more valuable content further down. Content above the page fold will always get the most attention, so it’s important to consider which points will make the user want to read on.
If you create a page with no hierarchy or few visual cues, your users’ scrolling behaviour will be affected. They will have less intent and little focus, so they will probably miss the important points or hooks contained within your content.
#4 – We need to show users everything at once
We know our users are busy and time-poor. But that doesn’t mean we have to show them everything in one go.
Imagine you’re passing a car dealership. You stop to browse through a car window, and you’re quickly approached by three salespeople. One tells you about the extended warranty available, another tells you about the unbeatable finance deals on offer, and another tells you about the 300-point vehicle inspection. Too much, right?!
OK, this example might be a tad extreme. But the point is, we don’t have to display everything in one go. Too much information will overwhelm the user. Instead, we need to create content that the user will want to explore and discover. We must strike the right balance between self-discovery and minimalism, so users feel empowered to browse further with intrigue.
#5 – UX is easy – anyone can do it
In practical terms, the executional aspect of User Experience can be easy with some basic training. For example, running a user interview is an easy enough task. Putting together a basic wireframe is pretty straightforward. But we all know there is much more to UX than these tasks.
Successful UX requires skill and expertise, including strategic thinking, research direction, planning, reporting on findings, and communication. Its value is in taking clients on a journey, from discovery through to validation.
The bottom line? Don’t be afraid to take on the beast of UX, and introduce it to your workflow.
Gaining buy-in for UX can be a challenge. But it doesn’t have to be seen as a big, expensive, and time-consuming concept. Incorporating a few elements of User Experience Design will have a significant impact on your deliverable. Start small – once you’ve demonstrated the value UX can bring, it will be hard to ignore.