6 months after his daughter Rebecca’s funeral, he went on Facebook and saw a ‘your year in review’ celebration with Rebecca’s face in the middle of it. How could this have happened? Who was that design meant for? Certainly not someone who had lost a child. Perhaps for someone who had a great year and is excited about sharing it.
The product and its call to action didn’t take into account other use cases outside of their core concept. They didn’t consider people who didn’t have a great year, or people who had the worst year of their lives. The truth is, we have all done this at some point, and possible repeatedly. We have all fallen prey to this sort of error because it is the easiest thing to focus on an idealized outcome – on a perfected vision of where we want something to go.
Imagine a user.
Envision a user for an apartment hunting website.
Questions: What gender are they? What race? What age? What do they want? Why are they there? How do they feel, not just about being there but in general? What is their situation in life?
WHAT IF YOU’RE COMPLETELY WRONG IN ALL OF THOSE ASSUMPTIONS???
We tend to focus on personas. As people we tend to think about other people. But if you’re wrong, would your design decision still help that person, or would you let them down? Would you make their situation, what they’re trying to do, even their lives, more difficult?
There are 2 systems of thinking: System 1 and System 2.
System 1 produces the fast, intuitive reactions and instantaneous decisions that govern most of our lives. System 2 is the deliberate type of thinking involved in focus, deliberation, reasoning or analysis – such as calculating a complex math problem, exercising self-control, or performing a demanding physical task.
When you practice System 2 thinking more and more it becomes System 1 thinking. Also if you’re around someone that does that kind of thinking, that can kick you into System 2 thinking. In System 2 you have to constantly analyze the situation.
PLAN FOR THE WORST
We don’t even know enough as designers to plan for the worst!
The auto industry over the past 50 years has been continually looking at what could go wrong and working to fix it.
Of course, if you think this way normally (what all could go wrong how could I die today at this minute), you’re prescribed medication. BUT, it’s necessary for design!
Eric showed a few ad examples of extremely inappropriate advertisements on very topical articles (ex: ‘Burn baby burn’ slogan ad on an article about someone dying in a fire). What’s concerning is as far as he can tell there isn’t a mechanism to avoid this!
There are many worse examples of code gone wrong. Auto tagging images (Flickr and Google both) had HUGE mistakes and horribly offensive results. Developers, designers, coders, didn’t stop themselves and ask what wen’t wrong and how can we avoid that? There were multiple opportunities to learn from this. I mean even if they had just made auto tagging voluntary and then provided a summary to allow users to review results and fix problems would have been better than what happened!
A home improvement store designed their user experience and tone, etc, for the happy person excited about a DIY project. They completely forgot about the people who had something go wrong in there home and had a stressful situation they had to solve. This store’s website had a bunch of peppy salesly copy blocking the way for these stressed people to get done what they needed.
Their mission statement as a company worked for both types of people, but they could have added the fourth bullet to how they approached their design:
- Prioritize helpful, realistic estimates
- Provide at-a-glane help
- Use plain language
- Write for the urgent case
Instead of the term ‘edge case’ we should use ‘stress case’
Identify Your Assumptions
Figure out what you’re taking for granted.
To help with this, to a premortem. It’s a hypothetical exercise where you imagine the project has failed spectacularly and then you come up with every reason you can think of the failure.
You can also assign a designated dissenter. At every step of the project it is this person’s job to find the assumptions and subvert them – think about how they could fail. For each project have a different person designated to this role.
Let’s be clear about our intent in design.
An example is the Twitter hashflags – they’re visual elements / icons added automatically to certain predesignated hashtags. This can be problematic. In fact, any time you add / change someone’s content without their permission it is problematic. JUST FRIGGIN ASK!
Consider the Context
Pokemon Go players are discovering historical monuments by playing. However, they’re also stumbling across mine fields, across national borders, finding dead bodies, and playing in appropriate places like Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Holocaust Museum. How much of this is the game designers’ responsibility? Eric doesn’t know the answer but it’s a good question.
MailChimp’s Voice & Tone website (http://voiceandtone.com) is a great example of how important the context is and how you can adjust tone to meet your users where they are.
As yourself WWAHD? (What Would A Human Do)
Value PEOPLE, not Users
Every interaction they make with your website is personal. Every interaction is one on one.
patientslikeme.com connects people with similar medical situations. Up front they ask for your information because the primary way the generate revenue is they license data sets to medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies, etc. They’re very up front about that! For the most part, users are allowed to leave form fields blank when they sign up. They are not required to answer questions. This is because there was an intentional decision to do that – they didn’t want to frustrate or upset people by forcing them to lie or make up something they don’t remember.
They have allowed people to use their service in a way that directly threatens their revenue generating strategy! They do this because they have prioritized people. This shouldn’t be astounding but it is, that a company has made the human choice over the business choice.
The Question Protocol (from Forms That Work by Caroline Jarrett & Gerry Gaffney)
- Who within your org uses the answer?
- What do they use it for?
- Is an answer required or options?
- If an answer is required, what happens if a user lies just to get through the form?
Then you can as, if a question isn’t required can we get rid of it?
Being intentional in what we ask and how we ask it values users time.
Making the Case for Compassion
“Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you accept” – Jon Postle
3 reasons to make a business decision:
- Make money
- Save money
- Decrease risk
If you need to get buy in, show the stakeholders what is happening. Take a video of people filling out the form that is difficult, or trying to achieve or find something on the site that takes half an hour, and show it to the people who need to give you buy in.
Compassion is not coddling. It takes courage. It is vital.
Apply your skills to make the web more humane.