Great UX goes well beyond the interface

September 22nd, 2016

I was recently working on a project for a music artist who needed to boost their social presence. I came across a service which claimed they could boost follower numbers for free and do even more for a monthly fee. There’s controversy around their use but that aside for now I skeptically gave it a look.

  1. Went to the site. It loaded. Fast. Check.
  2. It recognized me as a first time visitor so it popped up some messages instructing me on how to get started. Good, I like this.
  3. I read the messages, clicked where they told me to click, input the information it prompted me for, hit the save thingy, it told me I was great, that I was done, and to sit back and watch great things happen. Cha-ching.

Then I thought, “Ok now what is supposed to happen?” I went back and read everything, read the FAQ, read basically everything on the site, googled it, and I could not for the life of me figure out how I was to activate this follower generating machine. I probably spent 5x the amount of time a normal user would trying to figure this out. So I closed the tab and wrote it off as a waste of time.

Next day I received and email from John at said service. I almost deleted it immediately but opened it instead to see

Hi there - 

We are so excited that you have joined ##### as an artist, we want to make sure you are equally excited about using #####. That’s why we want to know how we are doing? 

*Did you successfully create a promotion? * 

*Is your fan base growing already – or do you feel stuck in the process?* 

 *How can we help YOU?* 

Cheers, John

I thought to myself, “No. It was unclear to me how this whole thing works.”  But then I hit reply and basically responded, “No. It was unclear to me how this whole thing works.” Not expecting much, I went on with my life but later that day guess who emailed me back? Yeah, John.

John broke it down for me basically saying that the service streamlines the practice of giving away a song mp3 (apparently people don’t buy music anymore) in exchange for follows, likes, comments, etc from real people. Basically you like the song or follow the artist and you get to download a free tune.

Ah ha! The whole downloading of a free tune was the missing piece. Nowhere in the on-boarding process or FAQ was there mention of providing a free tune. I had a feeling it had to be something like that but it seems that this idea was so obvious to this service that they left it as an assumption for the user. Ok so how do add this giveaway tune? Re-scanning the site and there it was, buried low in the interface in about 11pt all caps type, the upload mp3 file link. And that “How it works” walk-through for FAQ section? No callout or mention of this upload link.

For a second I thought “Oh, duh.” Then the UX Designer part of me kicked in and I thought “Wait a minute, this is bad UX!” This whole thing is supposed to take 5 minutes and took long enough to send most people running. SMH.

The next day John emailed me again asking if his answer cleared things up. I responded saying it did help and that it wasn’t clear on the website and of course thanking him for clearing it up. Later that day he responded back to me, thanking ME for the “great feedback” and gave me some free credits to cover the non-free stuff for a few months. 15 minutes later I had everything up and running. Money.

That’s customer service right there. That’s when customer service circles back, fixes a bad UX, creates a better UX, and closes a deal. But that’s when user feedback slaps you in the face and says hey you forgot something and you’re likely losing customers because of it.

This is too late in the process though. To reiterate, the website was done well. It did everything you’d expect. But that one sentence missing in the language of the site broke the whole process for me and likely some others. Somewhere in their process of writing the content for the site that key explanation was left out. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe in another 2o minutes and I would have found that upload link.

So often when we talk about designing a UX we think that only means the creating the interface. We can forget that the content writers are scripting and narrating the UX. We can forget that even though the interface is best practice galore and right on, that somewhere in there the idea still has to be conveyed and in some cases it’s the words that make or break that connection not the functionality.

Often as designers we focus only on who our users are, navigations, grids, content stacking, font’s, etc, but if there is no one in your design and development process specifically tasked with ensuring the idea is coming through then it falls back on the designer and they can be so entrenched that they overlook the obvious. If you do have that person on staff then appreciate their efforts. If not then it’s all hands on deck.

And a shout out to John from ##### for inspiring this post.

Mitch Maltese

Mitch has been a Designer working in print and digital media since 1996. Prior to joining Accella he worked as a Senior Graphic Artist building education systems for large pharmaceutical companies and medical institutions. As Art Director at Accella it is his responsibility to be hands-on, executing the clients vision throughout the design process. Mitch spends much of his spare time with his family and working on his 90 year old house in Baltimore, Maryland.

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