In under 30 years, the internet has gone from the great unknown to “Big Brother is Watching”. It boggles my mind how fast technology has grown to capture almost every action that a user performs. Even the most tech-savvy of us can’t avoid it.
Recently I read the article, “How To Build Honest UIs And Help Users Make Better Decisions”. The title of the article at first glance gave me the impression that it would discuss how to build clear and simple web forms. Instead it went down a rabbit hole of the dark and deceptive ways that Amazon, Facebook and other websites guide us towards performing actions unknowingly and unwillingly. This action, called “anticipatory design”, can be a great source of convenience of users if the designer uses this tool for good. We’ve become a society of where we’d like to make as little decisions as possible and our technology to be intuitive. But that comes with a price.
Drawn from the article mentioned above, here are 5 tips that lead to a positive UX:
Avoid the Dark Side
Dark patterns are “tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to.” – https://darkpatterns.org/. Examples can be items that show up in your shopping cart through a pre-selection radio button on a previous screen that is hard to catch, or when a free service ends and your credit card gets charged without any warning. This practice will always leave a user with a bad taste in their mouth.
Less Is More
This is not a surprise to me but more designers need to realize that more choices create more of a negative experience for the user. According to the article, “studies suggest that by reducing the amount of choice in a user interface, we can improve a user’s ability to make decisions, thereby reducing frustration and making the user experience better.”
Reduce Options By Anticipating Decisions
The goal of any website should be an easy to navigate structure. The author believes that this can be achieved by anticipating what a user might like to purchase based on past purchases. Not only is this handy when it comes to online shopping but it can also be useful when using music apps by playing songs the user may be interested in. Google Now does a good job of anticipating user needs by alerting the user of traffic information around the time the user leaves the office. These anticipatory designs enhance the user experience by automatically providing the user with choices that they would most likely of made themselves.
Reducing Options Can Lead To Reducing New Discoveries
The drawback to UIs that are so smart is that sometimes it prevents the user from making new discoveries for themselves. Facebook does this by controlling your newsfeed to showing only things they think you want to see. Amazon also does this by showing you similar items of something you already purchased. Music apps can hinder a user from discovering a new genre that they may not have considered by only playing music in the genre that the app has been designed to track.
Transparency is the Key to A Good Balance
The author sums up the article by providing examples on how a website can be intuitive but also ensure that the control stays in the user’s hands. This can be achieved by easy to find account settings to allow users to opt-out. Another tip is to clearly identify what is or isn’t an ad. The final tip is to always ask the users permission. Never assume that they want a preference or information saved.
Trust should be paramount behind any brand image. If a user feels conned or mislead by the website, it’s hard to gain their trust again. In this day and age, one person’s bad experience can influence many through social media and the world wide web.