Too often products are created without proper testing or usability research into how they function when the consumer get their hands on it.
We recently worked with a client in the medical industry making labels for their product. They took their product, with our designs, through several rigorous consumer studies. In the end, our designs changed significantly but ultimately the feedback from the studies about its usability was most important.
While it was slightly disheartening for them to change our designs (designers are very prideful about their work, in case you didn’t know) it was sort of nice to see that the user experience for once was taken into account and changes were actually implemented.
The other day I ran to Safeway to buy a few things for my dinner. Because I only had a few items, I decided to go through the self check out line. I’ve done it a million times and while I don’t love the interface, I’ve never really thought too much about it. Until now anyway. One of my items in my hand were jalapenos, which of course doesn’t have a bar code on them. You press unmarked items and then you’re supposed to press the letter of the item you are trying to find. So I
pressed J for jalapeno… which seems completely logical and obvious to ME. I was obviously wrong.
After a scrolling up and down for a minute, I finally asked the attendant and she showed me that it was under the letter P. That’s right, P. She said sort of confused “everyone always presses J but no one ever presses P for pepper.” I ask, WHY WOULD YOU!? If something tells you to press the letter of the item your looking for, why would anyone think to look under the letter of the “parent category?” If I want a cantaloupe I’m going to first think of pressing C, not M for melon. Now, while I’ll admit that it’s not COMPLETELY without logic, it’s not intuitive at all, and it’s pretty clear that the designers of this system never took usability or the user experience into account. Here’s a brilliant idea, how about some overlap and have it under both P and J so you have all you bases covered. Better yet, next time try asking a “real” user what they thought and if it was product is confusing or not. My guess is you can find out a lot but simply watching people use it.
While we don’t often design system like the grocery store here at R2, I think it’s still a good lesson in designing for things like websites which are so common and more interactive than most people realize. We need to always be thinking about what the site visitor is going to click on and make sure that nothing is confusing or hard to find.