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.