Bad user experience has been one of the biggest downfalls of potentially great software designs. If the navigation, interface layout, or other interaction aspects don’t work well, or are confusing, frustrating or otherwise very inconvenient, then software that could do some amazing things becomes very inaccessible for all but the most diehard users thereof.
Well, bad user experience is one of the reasons that software which hasn’t failed is very inaccessible to a lot of users, too. Look at 3D modeling software, at least most of it. It’s successful, but only with professionals who endured the confusion of their messy and complex interfaces to master the obtuse way they work.
This has made this kind of software (and a whole field of art) inaccessible to even very skilled digital artists. Like me, for example. So, bad user experience is not something you want to contend with. At the very best, it cuts your market down to a third of what it could be, and at worst, it causes you to fail entirely.
So, with that in mind, here are three rules for bad experience prevention, and I do hope you pay attention, because these will save your butt!
#1 – Instant Recognition
Ok, a lot of people who start out using a software solution will learn by experimentation. The problem is, a lot of designs are complex and not obvious, meaning that users can’t pick up some of the more basic uses of the software, and will quickly give up, saying “you need a quantum physics guide to figure this thing out”.
While it’s ok for advanced functionality to require some tutorials and study, the most basic uses of the design, your design should be fairly obvious, letting them accomplish a few things just by clicking on obvious things. Adobe does this well, Autodesk does not.
#2 – Consistency in Layout and Labeling
You want to be consistent in the layout of your forms, so that each step follows the same basic template that all the rest do. This means layout, proportion of controls, fonts and color schemes.
Along with this, you want to use the same label and wording schemes over the whole thing, so they don’t have to keep shifting gears mentally, from one point to another.
Failure to be consistent with this will not only make the software confusing, it also makes it seem shoddy.
#3 – Minimal Hops
While hops make excellent beer, they make for bad user interfaces when they’re overused. By hops, I mean navigation through multiple dialogs, forms or pages to accomplish a single task. The more times you have to load new forms or pages, it just makes the whole experience feel longer, slower and more complex, even if it isn’t.
Don’t be afraid to use scrollbars and tabs to get a decent (but not crowded) amount of material into one navigation point. All too often, people fear that, and it’s led to a lot of annoyance for users over the years.
So, if you want to avoid bad user experience, then these are three places to start, but of course, you can do much more. We have a lot of great material on interface practices to help you ensure nothing but positive user experience, so take a look.