An Old Lady To the Rescue - A Short Story of User Experience

This is a short story of when I was away from home in a city I had never been to before. I had been away all day, and all that was left for me to do that day was to go back to the hotel and go to sleep. Having been picked up that morning, I was now instead about to take the bus across town to get to my hotel. I had been told that the ride was short and easy, all I had to do was to sit at the same bus until I could actually see my hotel, then I would get off. As I approached the bus stop, there was a big sign saying ”Download Our App to Buy Your Ticket!”, so I took our my phone and downloaded it. But wow, the hassle of buying that bus ticket! With the weather being chilly, it was necessary to wear the big jacket, gloves, and a hat to not freeze to the bone while waiting for the bus, so you can image the pain of having to fight a losing battle with an app in that cold, with the time pressure to successfully buy the ticket before the bus drove past the bus stop. As I stood there, an old lady approached the bus stop. Looking back I’m surprised that my cursing over the app didn’t scare her away, but instead she came up to me and asked if there was anything she could do. I asked her if she knew how to buy the bus ticket and showed her my phone. The lady looked at me and smiled, and then told me the following: "I was where you are not long ago. Basically anyone I’ve met have struggled with their first attempts to use the app. I’ve done this a few times now, so I know how it works, but my first time trying to buy a ticket I gave up and took a taxi instead." Grateful for the guidance and instructions I had been given from the lady, we continued to chat for a while before my bus showed up. Unfortunately, the old lady was taking a different bus than me, so I thanked her once again as we said goodbye. During the bus ride back to the hotel, I gave the brief interaction with the nice lady some further thought. Working with User Experience, it was clear that the app for buying the bus tickets was not supportive enough to get me to the end goal of getting the ticket, and I was lucky to have had help to start the otherwise so seemingly easy bus ride. Below, I have summarized my 5 key aspects to think about when designing a good experience for the user for a product or service. But, in order to understand why these aspects are important, let’s first establish what overall User Experience entails! What Is User Experience? User Experience, or UX which is the most common term, is a process of designing and creating experiences that holds a high level of relevance and meaningfulness for a product, and include things like branding, efficiency, joy, usability, and functionality among many other things. It’s kind of like imagining and designing the whole user cycle from start to finish, always with the user in mind. Overall you could say that it’s an iterative working approach, applying the design process with the user in mind to develop a solution with good usability and accessibility, to achieve an end goal, and at the same time for the user to have a good experience while using the solution.

Working with UX, it’s important to consider and understand the key aspects of the target audience:

WHY The Why refers to understanding the reasons behind using your product. What is the main driver for adopting the product? WHAT The What refers to the capabilities of the product, what can it do? HOW The How refers to the functionality design. How easy is it to use your product, and how visually appealing is it? 5 Key Aspects To Think About in User Experience Based on the brief interaction with the old lady, I summarized 5 key aspects from a UX perspective that I think needs consideration when developing an effective product: Know Your Audience UX is focused around its user, and the context of that user. If you go beyond the intended audience, all your previous user testing, research, and conceptual investigation can (but not necessarily) become rendered obsolete due to the fact that “somebody else” is using the product. It’s also a good idea to adjust for the context within the context. The intended target user profiles can in some situations range from more overall usage to more experienced and advanced users. A product with good UX caters to the whole range within that target audience. Be Consistent Consistency is more important than you might think. The trouble I had was that the graphics on the buttons kept changing, but the function was many times the same. For example, on one button it said ”Done”, while another one said ”Confirm”, but their function was the same. However, the different wording made me think that their function was different from each other. Color is Guiding Colors are crucial! The problem I had for this situation was that the colors were different, either for buttons, backgrounds, or icons. While it definitely looked fancy, the many uses of colors made it hard to navigate and understand the interface, as colors can otherwise be used to guide the user in its interaction. For example, red is a great and nice color, but it is also associated with an error or something that has happened. It’s therefore important to take in consideration what colors you are using, as all colors have a certain subconscious meanings. That could increase the user friendliness and makes the interface easier to grasp and interact with. But Not Exclusively While colors are important, they are not everything when it comes to guiding the user to ensure inclusiveness and accessibility for all. A good approach is to strive to use several ways of communication to convey the right message. A classic example of this is traffic lights. On a traffic light, you don’t necessarily need to now the color of the light, but rather the placement of the light also communicates a message of when to go or stop. The traffic light for a pedestrian is instead of placement and color using different shapes and colors in the shape of either a walking green person or a standing red person, reinforcing the message it needs to convey to the pedestrians. Effects Should Support Interaction Sometimes products or websites make use of excessive effects to make it look in a certain way, which can be very cool when used in the right setting. Those visuals elements or effects should however primarily support the user with the interaction and possible actions to guide and instruct. The interaction can be enhanced by appealing effects to visuals elements like guiding indications or moving objects to guide the user to the intended goal. It’s not always about doing the best things, but rather making it the product with the best experience for the user. A superior product may actually be less favorable than a product that is easy to use. Final Words There are many things to think about when constructing a product or service to ensure a great user experience, and that the product in a good way caters to whole range of potential users and the different user levels. The above 5 key points are just a few things I try to keep on mind in my daily work, but there are of course many more that are of value. The important thing is that you are aware that merely having a product that solves a certain problem is not enough. Any product is only as good as the ease/experience of using it, and the better and easier we can make it for the product user, the more value we can extract from the product! Even though the answers was right in front of me, I still didn’t understand what to do when buying the bus ticket. Luckily for me, I met an old lady who helped me find the ”hidden” value of the bus ticket application, a value I would have otherwise not been able to find. That, in turn, is the power of UX!

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Interested in more articles likes like this? Then we suggest reading The Value of Holistic Modeling, Top 6 Best Practices In Pharma Decision-Making, or NDA Submission Strategy.