Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The not-so-obvious aspect of User Experience

If you watch BBC's Sherlock, you know he never says "Elementary, my dear Watson". Which is good, because if you've read Sherlock, you know Doyle's Sherlock never used that phrase either.

Instead, BBC Sherlock is forever saying incredulously, "Obvious!"

An question I keep running into in UX is that of "why doesn't every company employ user experience techniques when they create a site or a service?" or "it seems obvious, every company should build this way".  They don't. Or they do, and they choose not to pay heed to their user's emotions.

It's like any other business philosophy.

I like the restaurant analogy, so let's use that:
  • They should use a font that makes the menu easy to read
  • They should make it obvious if they are a cafe style or a classical restaurant style so you know what to do after you walk in
  • They should give you a smile when you walk in and put you at ease
  • They should drop personal conversations when they are near customers and treat the customer-facing area like a stage
  • They should check on you after your food has arrived.
  • They should appreciate all feedback as an opportunity to learn
  • They should embolden even the lowest level of employee with the power to wow the customer (not, "sorry our manager has to do that & she's not here today" Southwest is famous for this.)
  • If you're a regular customer, they should remember you and your preferences.
  • They should use fresh ingredients, ideally sourced locally
How many times have you seen one of these obvious "shoulds" not happen? Probably a lot. If one or more of these items isn't happening is not one waitstaff's fault, it's a systemic problem that is typically neglected by management. 

There are various 'interventions' to be taken (and if you watch Gordon Rhamsay's Kitchen Nightmares you know the interventions very well). Those interventions alone, aren't enough. If certain things do not change, months later the restaurant will falter and fold.

It's true for software development too. While the list above is obvious, it's not enough that the staff believes all of the above "shoulds" to be true. Management does too. Staff cannot effect change alone. 

Management has to be fully engaged in the user experience all the way through not just pay attention to it for a week out of the year. Yes, it's a great idea to focus on one aspect (according to the Power of Habit, when companies do focus on a "keystone habit" it tends to radiate elsewhere, prompting good habits).  

Why does management need to care? Because customers are the reason they are in business. Since they care about business they must care about customers. Customer experience and business are stubbornly linked. No, they aren't the same, but they cannot be unglued.

PS: Who else is interested in a Kitchen Nightmares-like User Experience reality TV show? Me, me me!!!! If you don't know the show, may I suggest watching one of the outlier episodes.

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