UX beyond the screen

A few days ago I stumbled across a very interesting article on Fastcompany. It was about someone complaining about the improper behavior of a co-worker. The author compares the behavior of this co-worker to the bad UI/UX design of a smartphone! I found this a very good example for illustrating what UI or UX means in terms of the non-digital encounters with people, products, services and the like. Using the the misbehaving co-worker from the article, I’d like to highlight some principles of good UX beyond the screen.

Every action requires a (timely) feedback: In the example of the co-worker, she never responded to emails in any way. So the sender didn’t know if she never received the email, if she simply missed it or if she blatantly ignored its content.

Present information in an orderly hierarchy, just enough when needed: The villain sent „a mass of information, undifferentiated, with no sense of a broader point or rationale“. In order to make sense about the world surrounding us, we require some information about it. But we also have limited attention and processing capacities. So providing nicely structured information and providing it only then when it adds value, is a good thing to do if you want to make people act in a certain way.

Alway make clear where you are at within a process: Unfortunately there was no example from the co-worker here, so I have to make one up. Imagine she got a task from you that is quite important and involves a few process steps. Now she does not inform you from time to time about her progress and the steps she already accomplished. Wouldn’t that make you feel quite uncomfortable? This is because not knowing what is going on rids you of the control over the situation.

Optimal balance between too easy and too difficult: Now imagine you gave her the task from before but now she keeps asking you all these unnecessary questions (like if she also could use a pencil instead a pen). Or she asks you in a manner that doubts the basic principles of your work, like why you are doing a project for a client from such an industry. All in all she is stealing your time and working with her does not feel like a smooth flow.

Although the term of UX is mostly used in regards to screens, the concept can be applied to all setting, not just digital ones. The principles that make a digital interaction pleasant also apply to any customer-service/customer-product interaction. This is because these principles are based on psychological factors and thus are universal for all humans. In other words, it’s about people, not the channel of interaction. And that UX can happen everywhere, whether analogue or digital.