Good Interface, Bad Interface

I have been doing a great deal of traveling as of late. Travel is frustrating. Airports, hotels, car rides and more are filled with other people’s design choices. Some are good, some are bad, and they all carry lessons in user experience. 

Airport bathrooms, for example, turn out to be pretty diverse in their design choices — and their influence on the traveler’s overall user experience is, understandably, intense. When it’s bad, it’s really bad. 

So, when faced with a bad user experience, I apply a simple mantra:
If you see every moment as an opportunity to either teach or learn, life is a lot more enjoyable.
Actually I try to apply this for good user experiences as well. Try to stop and recognize it when you’ve just effortlessly used some device or process, and ask yourself why it worked so well. Then take that lesson and ask how does it apply to software.

Every user experience you have, whether bad or good, can inform the software you design.

I’ll give you an example. I was stuck in an overly small seat in the very back row of an airplane (right by the bathroom). Frustrating. In front of me I saw this:



When the crew finally came around with drinks, I pulled my tray table down. I stopped later and asked myself: ‘how did I know how to pull the tray table down?’ There were no labels. There were no instructions. Yet that was a frustration-free user experience.

Why? Because, I decided, the design of the tray table followed a simple concept:
Give your user’s best guess the highest probability of being right.
A lesson I could apply in every software interface I would ever design.

If you look at the tray table, most people would make the same guess as to how to open it. The design makes that best guess the right solution. That is good user experience.

I began to see this everywhere. In the kitchen, on the road, making coffee. So I started a Tumblr: http://goodinterfacebadinterface.tumblr.com/

I plan on snapping a shot and seeing what I can learn whenever I am frustrated with an interface, and whenever it was so easy I didn’t have to think about it. It’s keeping me in a good mental place for design.

So far, so inspired.

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