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The Need for Direction

When users are provided with clear direction during an experience, I often find it to be the underlying attribute that leaves them with a positive outcome. It can be visual, verbal or even physical at times, but when the user knows what to do or what is expected of them, then there is little to no room for error.

When users find themselves with errors, whether it is on a webpage or while using a product, they feel as though they have done something wrong. They even feel “stupid” at times, as if they are not “smart” enough to use the tool or product correctly. We must never make the user feel as though they have done something wrong when we, as UX professionals, could have explained or presented it clearly to them the first time.

Let me give you an example; I recently went to lunch at a grab and go type restaurant. Two lines had clearly formed in front of each of the cashiers, although one line was moving much more quickly than the other. Only minutes after noticing the difference in lines, one unhappy customer leaned over to me and asked what I thought the problem was? After some investigation I soon found out that the line that was moving much slower was in fact a line for pick up orders only. This problem could have been easily avoided with the classic suspended signs often found in fast food restaurants that read “Order Here” and “Carry Out Pick Up Only”. Although the food at the restaurant was very good, the confusion left me (and I’m sure other customers) feeling unhappy with the experience overall.

When users experience a smooth encounter with a service or product (no matter if they really like it or not), they are left feeling satisfied and overall happy with the company. This is when one often hears users say, “it’s so simple” or “it’s so easy to use”. Clients often request that we help them “just make it as simple as possible” – this is no easy task!

I have a quote above my desk that reads:

“Simplification is complexity resolved.”

–       Constantin Brancusi

At User Insight we are constantly trying to resolve complexity by evaluating not only the user, but also the product, tool or service they are using. It is vital for us to observe user interaction in order to see the full picture and accurately evaluate what users find complex and then ideate and build solutions on how to best resolve it. This resolution can be anything from providing clearer wording in the guidance text, changing the visual treatment of an interaction or even rearranging the order of a user flow.

Without observing and identifying issues in a user’s experience, it is impossible to predict what needs to be changed. This forces creatives to make educated guesses. The problem is they are not your user, and you could be left with unhappy customers. User Insight recommends conducting research and observing your user as often and as early as possible to identify confusion and provide the clearest direction in order to launch a product into the market that is successful in every way.