“I can’t find it!” “Where am I?” “I can’t get back to where I was!” “I think I’m there, but I can’t see it.” There probably isn’t a single Web or smartphone user who has not uttered a similar complaint.
In Material Design: Why the Floating Action Button is bad UX design author and designer Teo Yu Siang highlights the problem with design fads. In this case, the culprit is the floating action button (FAB). As Teo Yu Siang explains, the FAB covers certain elements such as thumbnail images in the otherwise well-designed Photos app by Google.
Barriers to an engaging user experience are not limited to mobile. Twenty years into the Web, we still encounter serious and annoying design flaws as I discovered when attempting to check in for an upcoming flight earlier this week. The carrier on my itinerary was listed as U.S. Airways. So, fool that I am, I went to the U.S. Airways check-in page where I was presented with a seemingly intuitive design. Three clearly defined steps and a prominent button labeled “Check in online.”
Fair enough. As shown immediately below, I proceeded to enter the relevant flight information only to be greeted with this error message.
As a user, I found this error message troubling for two reasons:
- It was confusing. Should I click No and manually find my way to the American Airlines site? Or, should I click Yes and see what happens?
- Either way, I would have to start over.
What was going on here? Why was it necessary to contend with two sites and an error message? As it turned out, a careful review of my itinerary revealed that one of the flights was, in fact, operated by American Airlines. As readers will likely recall, American Airlines and U.S Airways merged a few years ago though it appears that their reservation and check-in systems did not join the party.
This is a classic example of imposing an internal problem on external customers. In other words, rather than create a seamless online check-in process for their customers, these two airlines have decided to place the entire burden on the user.
This cumbersome check-in process illustrates two key points:
- The obvious point is that failure to integrate systems makes for a clunky and confusing user experience.
- The slightly less obvious point is the likely perception about the reasons for a confusing web site or mobile app. When customers realize that they are suffering because decision makers have not addressed an internal problem, they may attribute these decisions to laziness or incompetence. Is this your desired outcome?
The broader point is that user experience and decision-making are intertwined. As with any endeavor, decisions contribute to the quality of the user’s experience.
What makes decision making even more challenging is the human-technology dynamic. Certainly, technology enables opportunities we could never have deemed possible even 10 years ago.
All illustrated by the airline and floating action button (FAB) examples, however, when technology trumps human needs, it’s the humans who suffer.