confusing-sign-1You’ve probably had the experience of changing cars and finding the indicator and windscreen wiper controls reversed, left-to-right. It takes a short while to get used to it, during which attempts to toot the horn lead to the wipers flapping at double speed instead! But the arrangement is simple enough whichever way round it is, so we adapt pretty quickly.

A similar need to adapt can face us when there’s an upgrade to an electronic device, operating system or application which changes what you have to do to interact successfully with it. My experience is that some such transitions go fine – the basic psychology of the interaction still works – but in other cases I never get used to the new pattern.

Sorry to say, but my BlackBerry is a case in point. I very quickly learned to use my first BlackBerry – indeed part of the attraction was that the QUERTY keyboard led to fewer errors than a traditional phone pad for texting, and the overall interface made perfect sense, too. I moved to the next version without a problem. Although the interaction style had changed in a number of significant ways, its behaviour still matched what I had come to expect. However, I’ve been struggling with a third version now for ages and still find the device responding unexpectedly to my inputs – something has been ‘improved’ to make it less intuitive, and much more frustrating. As soon as my contract is up, I’m switching, even at the cost of losing the physical keyboard which I like.

(Could it be me, I thought? Maybe, but I’ve adapted fine to other devices during the same time, and anyway a straw-poll of other BB users suggests the same problem.)

Unless you are an interaction designer, you may be thinking “So what?” Well, aren’t we all user interaction designers, in a way? Is dealing with your business frictionless or frustrating? Are your processes optimised for the administrative convenience of the provider – the way most call centres and GP practices seem to be – or for the customer – the way Amazon or, wierdly but consistently, the Companies House help line – are?

People are in such a hurry, are so used to instant gratification from the Amazons of this world, and have such split attention, that a hiccup in your process can mean losing the customer before you had them, even when your product or service is just what they need.

  • Do whatever you can to see and think about your business from the outside-in.
  • Mystery shop your own business and those of your competitors
  • Because you absolutely cannot turn unhelpful people into helpful people with training, hire for customer-facing jobs accordingly

© 2012. Andrew Bass. All Rights Reserved.

 


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