You know when you go into a café or restaurant you’ve never been in before and you stand inside the door a little awkwardly while you establish what the system is - table service or counter service or some other variation? Have you ever thought how bad a user/customer experience that is. I have.

I’m a little obsessed with how the user feels. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean every project I’ve worked on provided a good user experience but I’m acutely aware when it doesn’t and I’m always noticing bad user experience around me.

In the case of the restaurant/café such potential confusion could be taken care of quickly and cheaply without a total re-design (no need to embark on some lengthy wayfinding-style exercise!)  - a simple sign inside the door would do the trick, but it’s amazing how few places do this.

But signs are not a universal fix and sometimes in themselves they show up a bad user experience.

We’ve all seen at times, user experience sacrificed for style (the two can coexist). I was in a restaurant bathroom on Saturday evening that had fairly expensive looking Dyson hand dryer and integrated tap units . The last time I was in the restaurant the same thing happened -- everyone in the bathroom was talking about how to wash their hands. In this case signs with diagrams were stuck up beside each sink explaining how to use them but even with signs it still didn’t make sense. If Dyson’s goal is to ‘get the conversation started between random people in a bathroom’ it’s achieving it, however it’s missing what I’m sure was its core objective -- an all-in-one hand washing and drying system that doesn’t leave the user confused or gives them a bad experience.

Outside of restaurants bad user experience is all around us, especially on the web, but I think we’re getting less tolerant of it.

Three quick and simple suggestions to anybody who relies on people in some way to make a living:

  1. Spend time putting yourself in your customer/user's shoes (or virtual shoes).
  2. Identify examples of real people and bring yourself through their complete user journey: how, when, why etc they interact with you and what type of experience they get.
  3. Often people look at an element of what they offer to their users, but make sure you’re taking the complete picture into account.

These three suggestions of course won’t solve every problem but they are a good place to start to reconsider your user/customer experiences and anticipate some of the various problems they might encounter.

Image credit: Kim Scarborough/Flickr