Published on February 20th, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Truckers and UX Workarounds
My hometown in Central Illinois is a peaceful place – usually. A sleepy burgh of 600 with a downtown that has a library, bank, post office, grade school, restaurant and a gas station, not much happens there. It’s not really on the way to anywhere. So why do so many semi trucks lumber through our little town day and night? It’s a workaround.
Another trait of the little town is that it has an exit on the interstate. You can pull off and fill up your car and grab a bite to eat. This exit is about 8 miles west of another exit. And between the two exits is a weigh station. That’s where trucks have to pull over and be weighed and sometimes be inspected. That can be time-consuming and even costly and truckers don’t like either of these. So, even though it is illegal, truckers exit the interstate, avoid the weigh station by driving through my town and then reenter the interstate. The truckers have established a workaround.
When user experience design fails, users develop a workaround to meet their needs. Essentially they figure out a way to reach goals in steps that the design never intended. Let’s say a mobile application has a particular screen where analytics show that many users are taking a screenshot. The app even has print functionality hidden in a menu somewhere but users found an easier, quicker way. The designer’s understanding of the need was accurate but the functionality wasn’t readily discernible so the user invented their own solution. That’s a workaround.
Workarounds can be a UX designer’s best friend. The users are telling you what is a priority to them without telling you directly. Their priority was overlooked by the design team in the early iterations but subsequent versions can end the workaround by revising the deliverable.
You can discover workarounds in different ways:
- Do thorough usability testing and observation. It is important to include real users in your first iterations, even the prototype. Let the users bang it around and allow them to be candid in their feedback.
- Build in useful analytics to your product. Digital solutions allow us to see and know user behavior in a myriad of ways. We can see their navigation behavior and user flow from the moment they launch until they shut it down.
- Share the deliverable with “non-users.” The UX testing doesn’t have to be confined to people within your group or department. Share the product with someone outside of your world and have them share their reactions and feedback.
Users will build and share workarounds even when it results in more steps to get the task done. Like the truck drivers, they’ll even turn to workarounds at the risk of a ticket and a fine! Why such seemingly illogical decisions? Your audience has priorities and it is important for any UX design/development team to know what those priorities are. Recognize the workarounds, revise the UX and get your users on the road again.