Improving your user experience
If there is one thing guaranteed to annoy me on the Internet, it is people offering or promising to “improve your user experience.”
At the top of this page, as I write this, WordPress exhorts me: There’s now an easier way to create on WordPress.com! Switch to the improved posting experience.
I had as look at the “improved posting experience”, and found that it was absolutely dysfunctional. What do these people think “experience” means? And “improved”? Do they regard increasing people’s frustration levels as an “improvement”.
To all web page designers out there, there are two ways of improving my user experience. These two ways are:
- make pages more readable, and
- make pages more readable
The first way of making pages more readable is to increase the contrast between text and background.
The second way of making pages more readable is to make the text stand still long enough so that one can read it.
increase contrast between text and background
stop the text from jumping around when people are trying to read it
The first problem is the main problem with the new WordPress editor. I can’t use it because I can’t read the instructions or even find them on the page.
Fortunately the old functional editor is still available, but in order to make up for the high levels of frustration that are essential to an “improved posting experience” they have hidden it away so it is hard to find.
One that I use with short pieces of text (a line or two) is to hold a powerful magnifying glass up to the screen and try to work out what is written in that way.
For longer pieces of text, like a full article, and only if I’m really motivated to read it, I mark the text as if I am going to copy it. This usually reverses it, and instead of illegible light grey text on a white background it often gives white text on a blue background, which is usually more readable.
There doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about the jumping text.
It usually jumps when pictures are being loaded, and if it hasn’t stopping jumping within 30 seconds, I usually close that screen and give up trying to read it. The only solution is for web designers to design their pages better.
When I first started designing web pages 20 years ago one of the cardinal rules was that one should use graphics sparingly, because too many clutter up the page and take longer to load. Too many graphics is bad taste, and, what’s more, it leads to a bad user experience, but will web designers learn that? No.
And one of the first things to know about “user experience” is to stop talking about it! Just make our pages readable and make your pages readable and move on to something else. And, if you must, read this article
With all of this emphasis on ‘experience’, don’t lose sight of the fact that most people use technology to get stuff done. Frankly, most people don’t want an ‘experience’ with a car park machine, they just want to buy a parking ticket and move on.
Remember that. Write it out 10000 times: most users don’t want an “experience”, they just want to get stuff done. When I’m writing a blog post in WordPress, I don’t want a posting experience, I want to get my stuff written and posted. I want to accomplish a task not have an experience.
A couple of months ago I got a new cell phone. It took me two weeks to discover how to answer it when it rang. My old phone had a red phone icon and a green phone icon. You pressed the green one to answer when it rang, and the red one to hang up. Simple.
But that didn’t work on the new one. It had green phones and red phones and flashing dots in expanding circles, but no matter which one you pressed it kept on ringing until the caller gave up. A marvellous user experience that — I really have nothing better to do than watch flashing dots while the phone is ringing and I’m wondering how to answer it.
I’ve also encountered user surveys, many of which claim to be trying to provide an “enhanced user experience” — “Help us to learn more about our users so we can provide an enhanced user experience.” But most of them don’t want any kind of user feedback at all. They just want to know how they can sell you stuff. They are not seeking to provide an enhanced user experience, they are wanting to have an improved marketing experience. It’s their experience, not yours, that they are concerned about.
One was from the Daily Maverick which I had thought was one of the least unreliable news sources in South Africa today. It was very disappointing. One question was about what you used the Internet for, and most of the things I use the Internet for were not even among the options, just subsumed under “Other”.
It turned out to be all about online shopping habits, and one question asked you to choose 3 advantages you saw to online shopping. None of the suggested answers seemed to apply, so I clicked on “Other” and moved on. It want back, and said you have to give three. I closed it. If it had been allowed, I would have said “None of the above”, but I was disappointed that the Daily Maverick seems to have joined the ranks of the shameless manipulators. That doesn’t enhance my “user experience” at all, at all.