The Users Don’t Always Want What Your Designers Want

Your designers probably want the latest cutting edge gizmos and paradigms in your applications. What do your users want? The familiar and the things they have already learned to use:

Ford Motor Co. is going back to buttons and knobs.

Punished by third-party quality reports because of the difficulty of using its touch-screen multimedia system, called MyFord Touch, the auto maker will reprise tuning and volume knobs for the radio as it redesigns existing models, a top Ford executive said.

It is a reversal for Ford, which has been a first-mover with installing mobile-phone-based technologies, voice recognition and touch screens in its vehicles. The systems have been a big selling point for Ford with its vehicles, but also have dragged down its reputation for quality.

. . . .

One of the things that bothered customers was the inability to quickly change the channel or volume on the radio through familiar knobs, he said. As Ford redesigns its vehicles, the flat control panels with add more buttons and knobs[SIC] and[SIC] the main screen will become simpler.

Users have other goals in mind with your software than building a portfolio to take to their next job interviews. In a lot of cases, they want to do the same things in the same ways they’ve always done things.

Granted, you do have to balance the same old way of doing things with any process improvement that your software brings, but far too often, design changes come from the minds of the designers and frustrate the users to no end.

Ever wonder why fast food restaurants and many less expensive department stores have very similar layouts to others in the chain? It’s because customers whose goals are getting a quick lunch or grabbing the essentials quickly, looking for the things they need (which includes the bathrooms and concerns as to whether they pay the server or a cash register by the door) mars the simplicity they crave.

Likewise, if your designers had their way, each freaking McDonalds would have a different layout, some with gerbil tubes between the floors so users could climb between the registers and the condiments stand. Because it would be different. Because it would satisfy their needs as architects.

Some stores and restaurants are destinations qua as eating experiences or shopping experiences. But your software rarely is. Nobody’s running your software to enjoy your software.

So make it easy for them to do what they do with your software, and don’t add weird or unknown design elements just to do that because your users might not appreciate it. Even on the ancillary functions, like changing the radio or clicking a button.

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