I’m on a job in San Francisco and the town is booked solid for a conference so I’m staying in a Hilton at the Oakland airport. Whatever. It’s fine. I’m a professional. Maybe better, even, that I’m here because my hotel bathroom has provided not one, but two additional UX of UP lessons for us to go over.
1. Don’t let worrying about the future interfere with the present.
This is also called designing for micro-moments. This means presenting the features a user needs at the exact time the user needs them. The iPhone iOS, for instance, predicts which apps we might want to use in the “Siri Suggestions” panel that appears when the user swipes down on the home screen. These suggestions are based on the user’s location, time of day, and past usage. In terms of mobile app interfaces, interaction should always be focused on the task at hand (particularly once a user has ‘drilled-down’ into a specific UI path. At the same time, remaining features (those not being used) should either be minimized or removed from the screen altogether, often through animation of the UI elements.
Here then, is how non-micro-moment thinking looks in terms of hotel bathroom toilet paper dispensers:
What’s so weird about this, you ask? Looks perfectly normal, you say? Well, it’s not! The disaster here is caused by the fact the backup roll impedes the rolling of the active roll to the point where the active roll can’t be rolled at all (without tearing). Therein lies the problem. This hotel was so concerned with ensuring guests had access to a backup roll, they forgot what was really important, which is the moment at hand. In other words, fears about the future are interfering with the present experience.
After making do with a handful of shredded toilet paper, I stepped into the tub to clean off and immediately received my second hotel bathroom UX lesson, which is this:
2. Familiarity is everything!
The tub was one of those plastic jobs that looks like it was installed in about an hour and a half. Only here’s the thing. The floor of the tub was squishy! The tub itself was that cheap fiberglass-reinforced plastic and was weirdly flexible. When I stepped into the tub, it literally creaked as it warped and deformed. This exemplifies the importance of our expectations and how off-putting it can be when those expectations aren’t met. No one expects a squishy tub! The floor beneath the tup was so squishy, in fact, I wondered if it hadn’t rotted-out completely. At any moment, I feared the tub and I might just fall right through the floor. So far this hasn’t happened. But the experience was so unfamiliar as to be completely jarring.
Same goes for mobile interfaces. When users encounters a situation they’re not familiar with, it throws them off. So always design things using accepted conventions such that they’re just how we’re used to seeing them. These conventions are laid-out in the Apple HIG (Human Interface Guidelines) and in Google’s Material Design Guidelines. This is particularly relevant in the case of Enterprise apps where the number one priority is for the interactions to be immediately intuitive. The app must require zero learning curve and must enable users to get the job done as quickly as possible.
With game apps and consumer apps, however, usability can be less of a priority as oftentimes the intent is to showcase the coolness-factor of the game or product. And novel interaction approaches or flashy UI animations are a couple of techniques for impressing users. I’m thinking specifically of the iOS game “Causality” which lets the user manipulate time and alter the sequence of events to change the outcome of each level. For some reason, this rule especially does not apply to Snapchat, which I still can’t figure out. The UI seems to change every time I use the app. So if somebody could please contact me and explain the logic of Snapchat, my nieces and I would greatly appreciate it!
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