Our friend Collide asked an open question on Twitter and reminded us of an experience we had a while ago that led us to rethink our way of working.
Last year we redesigned a classified ads website. During the process, we performed some usability tests with several existing websites to see what worked and what didn’t for the audience we were working with.
This video belongs to those tests, and shows a serious problem that those who work in design and development suffer regularly:
The user was tasked with publishing an ad using a set of data that we gave him. From this test, we were able to identify many important things about how users browse and use these types of sites.
There are two specific things we can point out from the video:
- The Location select controls have to be very simple to use. The always good and trusted set of chained selects seems to do the job.
- Error messages and/or validations should always appear within the area of the screen the person is observing. In the video, you can see how the user submits the form without knowing if it was sent or not. That’s an evident fail according to Nielsen’s basic usability principles.
One of the users told us: “I don’t understand anything, I can’t handle this.”. He then closed the browser window.
These mistakes cost us customers and money..
The processes and interfaces we design can become great obstacles or great facilitators for those who use them, and by making design decisions thinking only of what we like or know, we may be negatively affecting other people’s ability to solve a problem.
We need to be a bit more skeptical, and try to question and validate as many assumptions as we can before making decisions.
Being able to design objectively, detaching ourselves from personal preferences, is one of the most difficult challenges for designers, but it is one of the skills that have the greatest impact on the effectiveness of our work.