2. Focus on key experiences
The total experience of a product covers much more than its usability. It covers aesthetics, pleasure, fun, and business goals which play a critical role. So don’t overcomplicate the journey with useless “delights”, animations or “funny illustrations”. Your user is there to do a task, and he does not have all the time in the world to analyse your delightful moments. Focus on one essential experience and make everything around it the best.
A great product anticipates what you need and is one step ahead of you. It also gets out of its own way and has a wink, 10% of surprise and delight that makes it feel more human and less technological.
Also, when working on the critical experience, don’t forget to design for stress moments. User testing is broken. Test via real-time usage and not in the lab. If you want to get real about how people use your product, exhaust them, bring them only bad news for the entire day then at the end give them to test the product. Let them perform a task under a short amount of time. What you will see or receive as an answer is real feedback of how the entire experience did go.
I worked once in a startup that shared the office building with a phone company which manufactures sustainable modular phones. Their phones can be easily recycled, they do not use child labour and all their workers are paid fair salaries. You could probably think “Hey, this is a great cause and we should all buy this kind of phones. It has a purpose, helps people in poor countries and can change the world”. But if we leave that aside and focus on the product itself, I would like to show you how it failed a stress moment.
I was going home after work and waiting for my tram. When it arrived, I got inside and took a seat across a guy who was unpacking a new phone. The tram had to go three more stops before everyone would leave it. And it takes on average 5–10 minutes to arrive at its final destination.
As a designer, I was enjoying this moment. Why? Because it’s always interesting to see how people interact with a product for the first time when nobody can see or judge them. From his face, I could see he was very excited. By coincidence, he was unpacking the phone of that specific company I just mentioned above.
He got the phone out and took all the papers aside. The excitement level on his face was increasing with every breath. After a brief moment, he got his old phone out and took out the sim card. He wanted to start using the new one and make a phone call. I could see the excitement on his face. He couldn’t wait to start using his new product. The guy was in the heaven of excitement.
The tram was already at the second station, so we got 3–5 more minutes to get to the final destination. He could not figure out where to insert the sim card. Being used that all the phones use the card slot outside, apparently this phone had it inside. He tries to remove the back side of the phone and guess what. He accidentally takes a part of the phone out. Why? Because it’s freaking modular. Meanwhile, the tram is slowly arriving at the final station. And the guy starts to hurry up because he wants to insert the sim before he gets out.
He desperately tried to fit in the back part. And at one moment he succeeds. The tram arrives at the destination, and people start getting out. The feeling of tension increases and you could see how blood goes up to his cheeks. Seeing that he can’t find the spot and insert a sim card into his new phone, frustrated, he throws it into the backpack. Then he takes his old phone out, opens the slot, inserts the sim, closes it and gets out of the tram.
That was, what I call, “you fucked up” moment of as a company. The phone company had every chance to prove to that guy that not only he got a great product but it’s also easy to use. He could be proud of his new acquisition. He could have gotten out of that tram, do the first call on a new phone and boast about his new phone. But no, they fucked up. Bad. Really bad. And this is UX under stress moments.