When a new, sexy application or device comes out, we happily invest all kinds of time playing with it, figuring it out, and being entertained by it. The initial value is in experiencing the cool technology. But most applications aren’t that sexy, and their value is simply helping you get stuff done and staying out of the way in the process.
I was reminded of this when I had to make a pit stop during a recent road trip. Observe the following “user interface” from this lovely gas station bathroom:
Now consider these observations (although I’m talking about a gas station bathroom, consider the user interface design parallels):
- I just wanted to complete a process, one that I complete at least a few times every day. This shouldn’t be that difficult.
- I had to make myself vulnerable in an unfamiliar setting; the additional (and seemingly alarming) messaging was making me even more uncomfortable. I simply was not open to new instructions in that moment.
- I was never really sure if I was using this bathroom properly. Was door even locked? Was I seconds away from an embarrassing situation? I wasn’t sure.
- As I walked back up to the front to leave, there was another confused patron receiving instructions on how to work the bathroom. I wondered how many “support calls” like this the gas station personnel had to field during the course of a day.
The lesson is this: poor user experience and bad user interface design have a cost. It’s the difference between a happy user and one who feels the need to wash their hands before returning to work.