Usability Heuristic 9 Help Users Recognize, Diagnose and Recover from Errors

We can make sure that we meet that heuristic in several ways. I’ll give you three recommendations, plus some examples. First, clearly inform users when an error has occurred. One of the simplest ways to do this is with an error message. Depending on the context, you might combine the messaging with a visual treatment like red text or a warning sign. If a user skips a field in Nordström Dotcoms checkout process, they see a combination of visual treatments and an error message. This clearly shows the user that an error has occurred. Second, we need to tell users what the problem is. It’s important to use plain language at this step. WLOS 404 error page quickly explains what went wrong. The page is missing removed. Third, we should offer a way to fix the error. That might mean providing concise instructions for how to correct the problem. But the best thing to do is to offer a shortcut in the error messaging, not just instructions for how to go fix the problem in the UI, but something that they can click or tap right now to solve the problem. For example, if a user hits an empty ResultSet on Kayak.com, they see this error message. It quickly explains the problem to many filters and proposes a solution which is great. But they take it a step further by providing removable filters right next to the error message so the user can take action right away. Sometimes the best way to help users recover from errors is to provide an undue function. Gmail does a great job with this. After the user sends an email, it offers the option to undo. And of course, the very best thing we can do to help users recover from errors is to try to come up with ways to prevent those errors in the first place. But that’s another one of the 10 heuristics error prevention.

UX Is Not Arts & Crafts Why We Use Tangibles

Sometimes in U. X, we get a perception of just being all arts and crafts. We get a perception of doing fun, things like this, a paper doll chain. Right. That’s arts and crafts, but that’s not what we’re about. We use these tangibles like sharpies and posts and scissors and tape and voting stickers and coins. We use all these tangibles for a purpose. I want to talk today about how to combat that misconception that all these tangible tools are really just for fun. The first reason we use these tangibles is because they help energize the group. When we switch away to passively listening to a conversation and leaning back in our chairs and we actually have to lean in and pick up a pen and paper and start sketching, or we pick up some stickers and have to get up and move around the room to start voting it physically and mentally engages people in a different way than just sitting and listening to a meeting.

The other reason we use tangibles is because it can help keep people free of distractions. If you’re not sitting in front of a computer, you’re not likely to check Twitter and read your email. You’re more likely to be involved in the activity if you’re actually using some of these tangible tools. We also use tangible objects because in some cases it can actually help us understand value in a closer, kind of more concrete way. So what I mean by that is let’s say I have these fake gold coins here, all right? And everybody has a stack of these, and we use these to vote on what we think is most important. Every time you start placing coins on an idea that you think is important, it means that your stack is decreasing. And what this does is it triggers what we call loss aversion, where people feel that losses are twice as painful as gains are enjoyable.

So by diminishing the stack here, I start to really value every single one of my choices and I think very critically about how I’m going to spend these coins. And this means that people are, again, more engaged in the decision making process. So consider using these tangibles not because they look fun, although it is a lot of fun, but consider using them because they really do add value and purpose to teams trying to solve problems.

UX Practitioners Adjusting to Post-Pandemic World

During our July virtual UKCS conference, Jacob Nielsen held a Q&A session. He was asked to describe his hopes and concerns for the field of X as we all adjust to a post pandemic reality.

I think mainly I have to have a lot of hopes because I think that the need for our work is even more so the case now that more things are virtual, more things are computerized, and also as new processes have to be invented or designed, you might say, to do things in different ways. And so, for example, service design, which is one of our big issues we talk about at the conference here, that’s really important. And that’s the way you can design these services to work better than they did in the past and for sure, better than they would have if people say, oh, let’s just put a camera up. Well, that’s just the first step.

You’ve got to do much more than that for, let’s say, telemedicine or any any other application, really. You’ve got to think of it as a service design problem. And also, of course, anything that you do do on the screen, that’s classic user interface design. And we need to really enhance our collaboration technologies in companies. So that’s a very, very large challenge there. And challenges opportunity. Right. Just two ways of thinking about it. So really big opportunities for good UX work in helping companies really become more productive under these circumstances. So this is a lot of internal work in I.T. departments and doing better digital workplace support in this environment. And also, of course, in terms of products that are being developed for the open market. I mean, we are using Zoom right now, and it’s it’s it’s nice. I mean, honestly, it’s it’s better than it was before. That’s why we’re using it for this conference. But you can also still tell it’s kind of primitive and much more could be done. And again, that’s our opportunity.

At the same time, I think there’s also some downsides or some some fears. I would say one is just simply that we are in a bad recession and I’m sure some people will lose their jobs as a result. I’m actually not that worried about that specifically for you people, because it’s such a growth field that there’s going to be other jobs. So, yeah, people will lose their job. Some of us will, but then other jobs will be there for us, other other disciplines and much worse trouble in that respect. But where we are a little bit in trouble, on the other hand, is that our field relies so much on that tight connection to the users. And I do have that fear that we might lose some of our user contact now that we are in isolation and we can do a lot of great work remotely. We actually have at our next conference we have a course on a remote possibility, sensing that that card is actually teaching. So we lot of things we can we can absolutely do and stay in touch with our users. We have to remember to do that and not just be isolated. Then there’s also all our creativity type of things and all these inventions that we had to do and the game that can also be supported in a virtual environment. But I do feel a little bit that we’re not always getting quite the same as in person.

So there’s I think some some there, too. We just got to be aware of that and work that much harder to overcome them and be sure to stay in touch with our users. Be sure to be have creative meetings with our colleagues and then, as I said, fulfill this vastly enhanced demand for user experience, for service design, for all the things that we know how to do, becoming a much always a big part of the world economy and of growing businesses. But it’s even more so now that basically almost almost everything has become virtual and is driven through a user interface. So it’s not just even a user interface. It’s like the interface to the world economy, you might say. And so it’s our job to to enhance that. And that’s a great opportunity, I think.

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