But I don’t want to name names here. Instead, let’s look at what fundamentally constitutes a pear-shaped experience…and how to avoid it.
Make people feel stupid.
First of all, lower your customer’s self-esteem, put them where they belong. A door that gives you no clue whether to push or pull. A site that does not tell you where to click or what to do. An error message that gives you nothing but gibberish IT jargons and offers no way to fix it. A site that is littered with weasel words and unnecessary copy.
It’s surprising how much people still blame themselves for ‘not getting it’ when using a product or service, when the fault clearly lies at the source. There are common-sense principles to avoid this scenario, however when deeply involved with a product we tend to take certain things for granted. The best way to discern whether your product may unintentionally lower the user’s self-esteem is to test early, often and welcome user feedback.
Too much effort for little or no reward.
If they want to use your product and service, ask them to try hard, really really hard. Take them through a maze, trip them up a few times, pull their hair every now and again. Kick them if necessary. Let them find a useless fake trophy — or even better — nothing at all at the end of the tunnel. Because what matters most is the journey, not the destination.
You've heard this harsh truth many times: people don’t seek your product out because they care about your CEO, or your AGMs. They go in there with a specific goal in mind, like paying a bill. Let them achieve that goal as quickly as possible. If they have time and are happy with the experience, they may stay for longer and check out some other things. If you try to keep someone engaged by using tricky techniques like deep navigation or hidden buttons, they'll most likely run out, slam the door and curse your name.
Don’t treat your customers with contempt. Treat them as smart, busy people who have too much going on in their lives. What can you and the product do to relieve them from unnecessary effort? Are there steps you can skip? Can certain parts of a form be pre-filled?
Here’s the essential ingredient for a terrible experience. Ignore what people say to you. Insult them if they show any dissatisfaction. Never show any gratitude, even for a payment or kudos on social media. Make them feel they are less important than your first-class customers who have paid higher subscription fees. Tell them how dumb they are if they don't ‘get’ your service.
Since when is being rude fashionable? Your grandma would be ashamed. Unless you're offering a unique service (North Korean visas anyone?) it’s not going to work out too well.
Use a friendly tone of voice and plain English in your copy. Be polite and helpful, point out to people where they may have made mistakes. Act quick in response to complaints, try to resolve matters privately if possible. Respect customer’s preference such as push notifications, advertising or dietary requirement.
Set clear expectation about waiting time, inform them about progress, explain the reason behind delay if necessary. People are less likely to be upset or anxious if they know what’s happening.
Offend their senses.
This is the companion piece to your rudeness assault. If you really want to piss people off, you’ll find your extra weapons here. Automatically play a video without people’s consent. Better yet, start cranking up some party music to show how fun you can be. Cover your screen with animated GIFs and blinking red text on green screen. If you're offering a physical product, build it with cheap, nasty materials and use ugly abrasive textures. If you're offering a service, employ an unpleasant smell as an introductory bonus. In fact, why not try several of these off-putting methods for added oomph.
Experience is absorbed through a combination of senses, feelings, thoughts, time and space. Even if your primary design targets are sight or touch, senses such as sound or smell may also subconsciously form the overall experience. Consider your users, your customers, and the context in which they are using your product or service. Use sensor stimuli accordingly to enhance the experience. Refrain from gimmicks when they don’t add value to the design.
Over-promise, or just lie.
This is another method that guarantees frustration, anger and screen smashing action at all times, especially when people discover the truth. Promise them life-changing features before signing up, and deliver nothing, or a fraction of what you've promised. Sell their data away to a third party, even though you've said ‘Your privacy is important to us’.
Okay the advice is nothing new, but it is often ignored: stay true to your words, don't over-promise and especially don't lie. Hell hath no fury like a user scorned and bad reviews travel like wildfire these days. Instead of promising the world on the first day (and knowing you can’t do it), tell customers what you’re planning for the next release and invite them to be part of the journey.
Mine people’s data without their consent. Stalk them and sneak in ads that match their profile into their feed. Manipulate their emotions. Be as creative with your data and algorithms as you can. No-one has the right to protest after they've clicked the ‘Agree’ button to sign up.
Personal data can be used to subtly enhance your product or service — a birthday discount or not advertising leather products to a vegan customer can make the right impression. Make use of these nice touches, but remember nobody falls for a stalker.
Being creepy is a fast way to lose trust. Consider your users. Be clear about what you will do with their data, ask for their consent explicitly, give them choices and options to exit. While it may sound risky, like you’ll lose your precious users, most people appreciate you being upfront. Most importantly, ask yourself and your customers if the benefits outweighs privacy concerns. People often will be willing to trade off some pain if the gain is worth it.
That’s all folks.
With all the right ingredients at hand, you can now create the worst experience with confidence and ease. You may irritate and appall customers but at least you'll give the UX crowd a fun experience — they’ll be able to mock, shame and insult with abandon. You’ll be guaranteed a prime spot in [Bad UX].