If your site / app / software does not have an “effortless” user experience, consider it a failure. If it hasn’t failed yet, it will soon. Now “effortless” is a subjective term and it’s got a lot of aliases out there. Facebook likes to call it “frictionless” and Tony Hseih calls it “delivering happiness”, but it all refers back to the concept of converting a casual user into a power user by drawing them deep into a site or community [and this is the important part] without them even knowing it.
If you’ve launched it already and you’re making money, then you are lucky. Pat yourself on the back. Then quickly go into code red mode and keep reading, because you have a big target on your back. The competition is gunning for you and they are actively building your app but with an effortless experience. At the other end of the project spectrum … if you are pre-launch (beta, alpha, dev, or wireframe) and you’ve already got usability issues, you’re just plain dead in the water. I’m involved in a couple of projects and competition analyses right now where these issues will undoubtedly kill the project before it ever goes live. Or, if we are analyzing the competition, we know exactly how to hone UX to launch with a superior product. Here are some flags that UX is “effort-full”:
- Unclear sign up (yes, some startups know “better” and still want to make it tough for users to pay them — entrepreneurial darwinism)
- Non-graphic workflow / too much text
- Inconsistent workflows as users hop from to different traffic paths (ex: reviewing final product before checkout has a diff interface than pulling old orders)
- Poor mobile strategy; today, users are web/app connoisseurs … you “afterthought” mobile strategy looks crayola; mobile should enhance the core app, not replace it
- If an app, no in-app purchases
- Inconsistent and random help (spotty help is worse than no help)
- Too many user types (adds $$$ to your project, too)
- Multi-screen checkout with a million options (like a two-year-old, you need to guide users down a path — give them options, they wander off)
- Irrelevant social components … if you don’t complement Facebook or Google+, you are missing the point
- Alerts — too many / not enough / inconsistent — it’s easy to annoy with these
Step back and look at your project with they eye of a skeptic. Oh wait, you can’t do that — you are too emotionally / financially invested in your project (financial investment = emotional investment, right?). Then hire a focus group. If you can’t afford that, then ask all the techie jerks that you know (not your friends — they’ll only tell you what you want to hear) to use the product and don’t listen to what they say, just watch them use it. When do they pause to talk to you? That’s the critical mass point when users are losing focus! Remove those sticking points. If the user completes an entire workflow without looking up, then you’re got a winner. They can be talking the whole time, that means nothing. It’s when a user looks away that they consider the current step “done” or annoying enough to pause. It’s a mental comma. By the way, when running your official or unofficial focus group, videotape them and replay later, over and over.
Usually, you need to launch with a simple Phase 1 to figure out what the Crowd needs for a real Phase 2. Phase 2 is where the real work begins, eliminating the obstacles that get in the way of effortless user experience.