A lesson from a sojourn with a digital team

A brief reminder of something was brought home twice today.

I am working with a digital business unit within a large and well established organisation. We are working on the creation and initiation of a stratgy for digital learning – for digital people and in a contemporary and sustainable manner. In a couple of meetings/interviews with team members and leads, a demo or example of a learning platform has happened. (These are established and successful services). In both instances there was a positive response to the service, the content and the rationale. In both cases there was also a worry about the UI. They looked rather dated and old.

This may seem like harsh criticism but I think there is a genuine concern to reflect on. The expectations of these folks and the teams they represent is set by industry leading digital products. To check that perception, I asked if there was a problem becasue this is an audience of ‘digital experts’. Apparently not. A few sentiments were expressed:

  • As a user of a tool, I expect them to be as easy to use as the tools I use all the time – quoting Uber, Google Analytics and Worpdress as examples.
  • I work in digital and I know that it is not that hard to make the interface simple and easy to use. Design patterns and UI conventions are easy enough to come across, why not follow them? (Ouch! I thought).
  • It’s a pain to have the navigation, main focus/content and acocunt settings in different places to the tools I use at work all day.

The first notion is familiar and well known. The second is something of a rebuke to product owners and account managers who represent businesses that are not keeping pace. It is simply no longer that hard. (Is that fair? I suspect it is but I don’t run a platform). The last point was new to me. The mental load of that adjustment in focus and action is wearing over long periods of use. And we all want frequent use of tools I reckon.

It’s another articulation of the “Don’t Make Me Think” imperative. If it feels hard, it is hard. Very often I am at pains to encourage clients not to concfuse UI and UX. In this case UI, or interaction simplicity, is likely to become one factor in a tool choice decision. Quite right too I believe.

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