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reflections of the team

Why Do We Keep Creating Horrible Experiences?

Last week, I went to a workshop on User Experience (UX). It was a success, since I learned a thing or two about UX, what it is and how it should feel like. But to me, it was more a success because of what it taught me on procedures. Let’s take a look.

User Experience

User Experience is a concept you are probably familiar with as an instructional designer or IT’er, but perhaps less as a training professional. Luckily for you; though we only started using UX 25 years ago, it's actually an intuitive approach. Since the child needed a name, Donald Norman from Apple coined it in ’93.

But seriously though, what is it?

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UX, or User Experience, talks about how you, as a user, experience an object or a service. You, as the user, are central to this concept. UX enables you to use something intuitively, making manuals superfluous. (Not always, of course. Most people would not leave their child in their stroller when folding it, for example, yet there are always some who try.) As you can see, UX does not limit itself to visual design. 

Focus on the user, also means you can apply UX to many different development procedures. Though it was first coined in the world of technology, it does not limit itself to that environment. UX affects every step in the customer journey: from when the user becomes aware of a need, to evaluating the consumption of a product or service.

This means it’s also applicable to the world of training and learning.

The Triangle of UX

As every cool concept these days, UX also has a triangle. 

  • USER - When applying it in a development process, create a persona: who are you creating something for? Don’t just use statistics, create a real story, someone you can relate to.
  • CONTEXT - The user will always use a specific product or service in a specific context. Context forms experience and is thus important to take into account.
  • CONSISTENCY - The experience of the user should be consistent across platforms, across moments, across locations. Consistency does not mean exactly the same. It refers to creating similar experiences for the user, wherever he or she chooses to engage.

Why do it?

The UX Principles

Besides triangles, principles always score high in concepts. Let’s take a look at the 13 (!) principles – knowing I will now lose half of all readers due to superstition.

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  1. Don’t Make Users Think. Thinking is BAD for them! Not really though: what is bad, is not following conventions. Ease of use should always trump design.
  2. Keep It as Simple as Possible. The user is looking for answers. Give it to him. Quickly!
  3. Keep It Consistent.
  4. Use Conventions and Patterns. The onboarding of a user will be much faster.
  5. Give Users Control. For instance: in sorting lists, in colours, …
  6. Use Effective Copy. Don’t think of what you want to say, think of what the user wants to hear.
  7. Don’t Waste Users’ Patience. What does the user want to do, or want to know? Clear that pathway from any obstacles.
  8. Focus Users’ Attention. A sense of direction and orientation are important to increase onboarding.
  9. Use Whitespace. Too much text is cluttering and takes away focus.
  10. Design for Edge Cases. What could break your product or service? Don’t assume it’ll never happen. Find a solution.
  11. Create Playfulness. Fun examples include Google’s Easter eggs or the smoothie containers from Innocent.
  12. Steal from the Best. Innovation is actually overrated.
  13. Test Early. Test Often. An agile approach can avoid the need to start over.

But this all seems so obvious...

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YES. Because IT IS.

It is obvious and yet, why do we keep creating horrible experiences?

Within an organization, you have this thing called Legacy. All knowledge of restrictions, presumptions, emergencies and the stress that comes with it. You carry with you a certain way of doing things, you have specific points of contact who you always go to for advice.

This all leads to products and services, or in our case training, not living up to its potential.

  • Even when creating training, don’t put audit reasons, compatibility with enterprise networks, managers’ demands, and so on, central. Put the user central. What does he or she need?
  • Design for simplicity. Does this employee really need to know of all the 100s of functions a certain software can do, or will he only use 5 daily?
  • Don’t assume “experience”, containing engagement and emotions, can be added when there is still time left, at the ending of a project. Let’s face it: when was the last time you still had a massive amount of time left when completing a project? Integrate the experience from the start of your project.
  • And lastly: when creating training or e-learnings, you have your target audience right at your fingertips. Every UX designer is jealous of you for this. Use them, test early and test often.

I would like to end this blog with a quote of our own Marc Alen, when discussing this very topic:

“The pitfall of many enterprise systems is, in striving for completeness of the system, one forgets the focus of the user.”