Welcome to the inaugural column of what will be a regular feature on our blog in weeks to come: Ask a UX-er. The column arose out of a desire to start a conversation about what our team does and why—what we find important, what our pet peeves are, where we think ux is headed.

The questions we’ll be discussing range from bigger-picture questions about ux and design in general to infrastructural questions about how a ux team can better interact with the rest of a project team.

For our first column, we’ve decided to open with one hell of a shot over the bow: namely, by questioning the point of ux in the first place. Below is our team’s initial discussion of two questions asking whether ux matters.

Is there ever a good (or good enough) reason to create “bad” UX? and Is UX *always* important?

This is what our Jedi team thought:

  • JonJon Boardman

    Slightly different questions but I think they both highlight a general question that I often ask of Redgate: What exactly do people think UX really is?

    I say this because people often think that UX is only about usability, or UI/visual design; in this context you could see the second question (for example) as “is good usability *always* important?”. With this as a question you could argue no. Impressive new technology could offer such an improvement on the way that users can work that they may put up with (or not even notice) poor usability for a while as they gain far outweighs the pain (and/or the ways of working are so new that it is not clear how to fine-tune the usability). This is often the case with pioneering new technology (although admittedly less so these days as base-level skills in usability improve).

    However, in these cases the users are still getting a great experience; some new tool or functionality that makes a big difference to their lives.

    UX is about *all* aspects of a product that affect the user’s experience of using that product or service (and also interacting with the company that offered it ideally, although this is now splitting out into specialised branches). UX is about getting the right product, with the right functionality as much as it is about making that functionality easy to use.

    It is always important to have a good overall experience of using a product or dealing with a company? I would say yes.

  • Revathi-NathanielRevathi Nathaniel

    I think it depends on how customer focused a company is. If a company is interested in growing and maintaining a customer base it should be listening to its customers/potential customers. Start-up companies may feel UX is not very high on their priority list early on in the process of building up the company.

    Once a company begins to find its feet and starts building a customer base that includes people who are not kith and kin, it does make sense to start listening to customers and UX is a great way to do this.

  • Richard.muscat2Richard Muscat

    If you’re inventing a new product and you aren’t sure whether users even care about the functionality, then it’s completely useless having the best unit and automated tests. In this scenario, you want the kind of users – those famed early adopters – who will use your software despite all the bugs. For any given piece of software to be valuable, there should be users out there whose experience is improved by the bare bones functionality being provided. That is, they can now do something they couldn’t do before. Then, when we find those users, we can with all confidence spend time optimising the user experience for a wider audience.

    If you’re talking about deliberately creating a bad user experience then I can’t think of a good reason to do so. I can’t think of one scenario where a bad user experience is more beneficial that a good one.

    However, there are situations where an optimal user experience is just not feasible. For instance, it might be the case that the easiest way of getting a hold of SQL Backup is to click a download button that just gives you the installer. As a business, the only way we can keep producing new versions of SQL Backup is for us to sell it so, having a download form gives us the opportunity to do that.

    The trick lies in extending our understanding of User Experience to areas outside of the immediate software environment. If our sales function is genuinely focused on initiating a conversation with users, then a sub-optimal download experience is acceptable if helps us provide an optimal sales experience.

  • Tom Randle

    Tom Randle

    Is there ever a good (or good enough) reason to create “bad” UX?—yes. I think you could probably argue the experience of being punished shouldn’t be a good one! It would be counterproductive if everyone who went to jail or got a speeding ticket found it a pleasurable experience.

    In software you’re rarely trying to penalise someone but occasionally you are trying to persuade them to do something they’d prefer not to. However, you should only do what you absolutely have to. If you’re deliberately making something worse to satisfy a business requirement you should be trying to make up for it elsewhere so that the overall experience is a good one.

  • AdamAdam Walker

    Is there ever a good (or good enough) reason to create “bad” UX?—yes. I think you could probably argue the experience of being punished shouldn’t be a good one! It would be counterproductive if everyone who went to jail or got a speeding ticket found it a pleasurable experience.

    In software you’re rarely trying to penalise someone but occasionally you are trying to persuade them to do something they’d prefer not to. However, you should only do what you absolutely have to. If you’re deliberately making something worse to satisfy a business requirement you should be trying to make up for it elsewhere so that the overall experience is a good one.

    I also can’t think of a good reason to deliberately cause ‘bad’ user experience. However, there are occasions when we would knowingly settle for something we accepted wasn’t ‘good’. An example of this would be deciding not to completely support older versions of SQL Server or not to optimise a web page or app for Internet Explorer 6.

    It’s also sometimes acceptable to step aside and leave the user to figure things out for themselves without necessarily always providing an accompanying ‘good’ user experience. The about:config in Firefox is a good example of warning the user they’d be on their own from that point on:

    clip_image001

  • Tom Randle

    Tom

    Excellent point.

    The whole purpose of personas and user centred design is that you don’t optimize for everyone. In fact sometimes you deliberately have to make it worse for the atypical users. It’s all:

    clip_image002_thumb

    (anyone who doesn’t get the Hot Fuzz reference should be fired)…

  • JonJon

    Very tenuous link there Mr. Randle…

If you have a question, please email Meghan, where I will anonymise your question for you and toss it to the ravenous discussion-wolves of our team. And feel free to get involved in the comment thread!—this is much more of a conversation than a diatribe, so if you love our thoughts, hate our argument, or just want to challenge us to a ux gang war (in which case, bring your a-game, son), we’d love to hear from you.

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  • Man with paper and pens

    Is there ever a good (or good enough) reason to create “bad” UX?—NO!.

    “It would be counterproductive if everyone who went to jail or got a speeding ticket found it a pleasurable experience.”

    What would really be counter productive is…
    Not knowing the best way to pay your fine
    Not knowing why you got the ticket
    Not knowing why tickets help the community
    Not knowing how you could avoid the penalty in the future
    Not having easy access to additional education or training
    Not knowing the consequences if you don’t pay
    Etc etc…

    What if we could design an experience where getting a ticket took minutes to resolve, AND ensure they never got another one? Now that would be valuable. What if instead of cursing the council, we felt glad for the intervention?

    But this is really an example of bad Stories not UX design. If your stories is trying to promote ‘bad’ UX then you probably need a new PO.

    I agree with Jon…

    “UX is about *all* aspects of a product that affect the user’s experience of using that product or service”

    It is often unavoidable having varying levels of UI, VIS, performance, customer support etc etc. The trick is getting the all these aspects to deliver the business and user value. But good UX should should go even further.

    The Firefox config warning, could be considered “bad” from a pure story/feature point of view. But it excels in key UX principles. Good UX is more about relationships than simply delivering a feature set.

    The Firefox config warning is concise, humorous, friendly, natural speaking, intimate, helpful, endearing, respectful, it has personality, everything you’d want in a friend or colleague. And everything a brand manager would want to convey.

    Good UX turns customers into loyal fans that…

    are knowledgeable about the processes we provide, how they deliver value, why we deem them to be best practice.

    are invested members of not only our products, but our development team, sales team etc They actively support us.

    are opinionated about our products, they become unpaid promotional agents for our software

    ….and i can’t think of any advantage in not trying to achieve that.

    Unless i’m really busy of course, or had too much ale the night before. Then stuff it, *scribble scribble* that’ll do :)