A clear example of an unclear UX Design
One of the main aspects of UX Design is the assurance and transparency it communicates to the user. That is why with the history we have come naturally to an agreement in certain elements. For example we all agree that a red button is something negative, green is positive, grey is something passive or non-functional. That gives a certain assurance to the user. Just by glancing at the button they can almost unconsciously build a certain expectation and be sure that acting on that button will trigger the expected result. In my mind it looks something like this:
But today in a world of highly complex products and growth hacking strategies the user is faced with thousands of UX elements, some new and unfamiliar, and is the job of the product and its UX design to give the right information and build the right expectations so the user can feel comfortable when using the service.
As a product manager in financial services I am naturally very attentive when it comes to what the user expects when clicking/tapping something and what actually happens. When you are dealing with people’s money you need to make sure that the user is clear when, where, for what and how much funds are going to be debited or credited from their account.
But not all services are so sensitive, or at least that is how companies in different industries think. Users get abused on social media platforms every day for example. You click something and boom, all your contacts get an invitation SMS, or something is posted on your behalf without you noticing it. But for me every product is sensitive and there is no reason for social media companies to trick users with their growth hacking techniques.
A clear example of this was a new functionality I encountered in the Linkedin’s iOS App.
If you want to share something it’s very easy to do it by tapping on the clearly defined space that says “Share an article, photo or idea”. Now if you are like me most probably you are sharing a link to an article valuable for your connections. And here comes the new functionality. After pasting the link an interesting element appears blow your status that asks “Who might be interested in this”
Now Linkedin is a professional network so when you share something, you have in mind some people that might be interested in what you’re sharing and you hope those people will see it and get the value you are expecting. So this question that pops up is most probably very relevant and attractive for the user. My first reaction to this was very positive. I though this is great, Linkedin is asking me to give direction to their algorithm so my post will show up to people I find relevant. In the end this is my main objective so this is something very helpful. So in that moment I built my expectation.
Act on the UI element
So naturally this took my attention and I acted on this UI element by tapping on it. This caused a list of my contacts to show up. Of course, Linkedin was asking me who might be interested in this so it’s very logic that after tapping on it I should get some sort of interface to select the people that would be interested in what I am sharing. So far so good.
Doubts, Confusion and Uncertainty
But then the names I selected were embedded in my status written in bold black font. At this point some doubts arise and I start to get confused. Why are these names highlighted? What does that mean? Are they going to appear and be public? Not sure. As always the fault is on the product. Linkedin didn’t do a good job to inform what exactly would happen after this particular new action.
After all these doubts and unanswered questions I start feeling anxious. I am not sure what will be the outcome of selecting these names. And because it’s a professional network and I have selected names of people I don’t really want to bother without a good reason, I am not at all comfortable on doing this.
So I decide what is probably a logic thing to do. Not use the functionality altogether. I deselected the names and simply shared the article.
So in the end the above flow looked more like this:
What started as a delightful UI element communicating an interesting functionality ended up in making the user anxious about using it and giving up on it altogether.
Now if I had used the functionality what would’ve happened is that the connections that I selected would’ve been mentioned in my status and notified via email about this. Now that is something I didn’t want to do so I made the right choice. And it’s not only me who felt like this, I assumed. So I asked a few users around and they had the same confusion and none of them would want to mention their connection and notify them via e-mail just because they thought they might be interested in an article.
And this is not the first time I’ve heard from Linkedin users feeling confused and bothered by Linkedin’s growth hacking techniques. I often hear them complaining about getting unexpected large numbers of messages when they have a work anniversary for example.
I do not know what was the exact process Linkedin followed here. It’s clear that they wanted to increase engagement by offering this functionality. And I do not know how they tested this and how their big userbase feels about it. Maybe it’s something they like. But what Linkedin and all companies should do is try to be more informative about what a functionality actually does so they can give a chance to their users to compare it with their own expectations and decide on what to do.
We should strive to make all users happy when offering a new functionality whether they will end up using it or not.
Have you encountered similar examples? How would you suggest tackling this problem and avoiding user anxiety? Let me know :-)