5 Things To Do Differently About Your Product’s UX

By Eugen Eşanu

We designers, have the chance to make an impact if we take responsibility for what we put out in the world. Small and daily decisions will add a minor drop to the ocean, but will make a big difference in the long run. And if all of us will design with a human-centred approach in mind, we can create better products that may have an impact. So here are five thoughts on what we can do better about the user experience of our products:

Creating a great product is a marathon, not a sprint. The extra time dedicated to research, improvements, polishing the details, testing, editing will make a big difference. In the long run, companies who did cut corners will slowly become obsolete or easily replaced and people will forget about them.

It starts by wanting to create a classic — Robert Greene

Take the construction on La Sagrada Família in Barcelona, which broke ground in 1882 yet whose completion is slated for 2026 — the hundred-year anniversary of the architect’s death. The months and years and decades fall away.

It took decades for Apple to achieve a market cap as today. Edison’s famous line that he failed 10,000 times before he found the perfect solution for his lightbulb. And this type of innovation takes time and effort and it can’t be rushed. Otherwise you will get a messy and clunky end product.

The total experience of a product covers much more than its usability. It covers aesthetics, pleasure, fun, and business goals which play a critical role. So don’t overcomplicate the journey with useless “delights”, animations or “funny illustrations”. Your user is there to do a task, and he does not have all the time in the world to analyse your delightful moments. Focus on one essential experience and make everything around it the best.

A great product anticipates what you need and is one step ahead of you. It also gets out of its own way and has a wink, 10% of surprise and delight that makes it feel more human and less technological.

Also, when working on the critical experience, don’t forget to design for stress moments. User testing is broken. Test via real-time usage and not in the lab. If you want to get real about how people use your product, exhaust them, bring them only bad news for the entire day then at the end give them to test the product. Let them perform a task under a short amount of time. What you will see or receive as an answer is real feedback of how the entire experience did go.

I worked once in a startup that shared the office building with a phone company which manufactures sustainable modular phones. Their phones can be easily recycled, they do not use child labour and all their workers are paid fair salaries. You could probably think “Hey, this is a great cause and we should all buy this kind of phones. It has a purpose, helps people in poor countries and can change the world”. But if we leave that aside and focus on the product itself, I would like to show you how it failed a stress moment.

I was going home after work and waiting for my tram. When it arrived, I got inside and took a seat across a guy who was unpacking a new phone. The tram had to go three more stops before everyone would leave it. And it takes on average 5–10 minutes to arrive at its final destination.

As a designer, I was enjoying this moment. Why? Because it’s always interesting to see how people interact with a product for the first time when nobody can see or judge them. From his face, I could see he was very excited. By coincidence, he was unpacking the phone of that specific company I just mentioned above.

He got the phone out and took all the papers aside. The excitement level on his face was increasing with every breath. After a brief moment, he got his old phone out and took out the sim card. He wanted to start using the new one and make a phone call. I could see the excitement on his face. He couldn’t wait to start using his new product. The guy was in the heaven of excitement.

The tram was already at the second station, so we got 3–5 more minutes to get to the final destination. He could not figure out where to insert the sim card. Being used that all the phones use the card slot outside, apparently this phone had it inside. He tries to remove the back side of the phone and guess what. He accidentally takes a part of the phone out. Why? Because it’s freaking modular. Meanwhile, the tram is slowly arriving at the final station. And the guy starts to hurry up because he wants to insert the sim before he gets out.

He desperately tried to fit in the back part. And at one moment he succeeds. The tram arrives at the destination, and people start getting out. The feeling of tension increases and you could see how blood goes up to his cheeks. Seeing that he can’t find the spot and insert a sim card into his new phone, frustrated, he throws it into the backpack. Then he takes his old phone out, opens the slot, inserts the sim, closes it and gets out of the tram.

That was, what I call, “you fucked up” moment of as a company. The phone company had every chance to prove to that guy that not only he got a great product but it’s also easy to use. He could be proud of his new acquisition. He could have gotten out of that tram, do the first call on a new phone and boast about his new phone. But no, they fucked up. Bad. Really bad. And this is UX under stress moments.

And the point of the story is not the process of inserting a sim card in a phone, but the first interaction the customer had with the phone company. The relationship started bad for him. And in a modern competitive environment where at any time can somebody take your place as “better alternative”, you don’t want to screw up. Especially if you don’t have a well established brand yet. Every small detail is important. Every.

Difficulties arise when we do not think of people and machines as collaborative systems. Instead, we assign whatever tasks can be automated to the devices and leave the rest to the people. And with that, we start believing that we need a lot of features, and the more you have is better for the end user. But that’s wrong. In this case, we will have to deal with a choice overload which is a cognitive process where people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options.

Envy and jealousy are two out of the ten commandments. Those of you who have raised siblings you know about envy. Warren Buffet said many times

It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.

For example, we as humans don’t need a lot of money, big houses or 20 cars. We buy them or want more because we see other people who have them and all the attention they get. So it creates envy and jealousy feelings in our brain.

These feelings operate, to a considerable extent, on the subconscious level. Anybody who doesn’t understand it is taking on defects he shouldn’t have. Same applies to business, design and anything else in life. Whenever you see big companies doing something, and they are successful, you want the same thing. That’s why you see so many copycats, and there are very few original and successful businesses.

Whenever you have a new cool feature in mind for your product, ask yourself this question: “Is there a life situation where it will be useful for our customer and will solve a meaningful problem for them?” This is where most of the ideas fail.

Every time you want to add something to your product, remember that every feature is like adopting a child. You have to grow it and take care of him. You have to take that feature through all the stages of iterations and see where it stands in the grand vision of your product.