Is a product still usable if the user has to “get used to it”?

Is a product still usable if the user has to “get used to it”?

During usability, when participants have trouble using something we often hear ‘I could do better but I’d just have to get used to it.’ This is a common phrase; it typically means there are usability issues. But maybe something more subtle is at play.

Sometimes the designs we test are not expected to be ‘walk up and use’ – in which case, ‘getting used to it’ might be a real thing. The design might be good, but it requires training. We have to know if the user is expected to have prior knowledge, require training, or need a ‘breaking in period’ (getting used to it!); if we don’t give the ‘breaking in’, the designs we test are not getting a fair evaluation. Experts perform differently from novices. Sometimes (often) user interfaces that novices find easy to use are frustrating to experts.

6 UX trends for 2019

6 UX trends for 2019



As industries undergo massive change, there’s a tension; new players will disrupt old market structures and the UX is going to play a critical if not defining the role in the success or failure of these transformations.

The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry

Part 6  6 UX trends for 2019

There are reasons to be both optimistic and somewhat cautious about what’s coming in 2019 for the UX industry. Walking through the expansive halls of CES, as I have done every year for the last 10 years, usually leaves me with a solid understanding of where certain industries are headed, both in technology evolution and investment, and the role user experience (UX) research and design will play in that process.

Here are my thoughts on which UX considerations will take center stage in the coming year:

1. The complexity and need for speed-to-market in healthcare will drive user experiences to new and interesting levels.

In 2019, we will see a greater focus on the user experience in healthcare. Healthcare has been slow to move in the past in large part because it’s highly regulated and obsessed with safety (as it should be!). But as consumer-oriented digital applications begin to raise the awareness of what user interfaces can be to health-care professionals, users will demand better experiences.  We see this in electronic medical records, where many user interfaces are effectively mired in 1990s-style UI designs.  Further, as more nimble startups see the business opportunity in healthcare, there will be more consumer-facing applications to support a wide variety of areas (e.g., sleep, nutrition, pregnancy, etc.).  There is growing need among these companies to do human factors testing of digital products prior to FDA submission, and a painful lack of awareness of that process.


2. As payments go digital, there is a knock-on effect across the entire commercial fabric making understanding user experience essential.

In the past, many financial services that customers required demanded an intermediary financial institution, e.g., currency exchange. It’s now possible to set up an account where dollars can be moved between euros, pounds, and yen without ever having to incur any intermediary. Through a simple app, accounts can be kept in one currency and withdrawn.  The user experience is greatly simplified.  There is also a fast push to cashless societies, such as in Sweden.  (Even homeless people in Sweden can take credit cards!). Companies will have to understand their customers’ needs and lead the way with user experiences that provide systemic, safe, private, and convenient ways of interacting. Again, like in healthcare, smaller, aggressive and well-funded startups will challenge established players; the point of competition, where customers will be gained or lost, will be at the customer’s experience.

3. Mobility provides both macro and micro challenges to the user experience.

Mobility is morphing. We are all incredibly aware of how Uber, Lyft, Didi and other ridesharing services are transforming how we think about transportation and mobility. How we get around today and how goods are moved (i.e., in trucking) is changing fast. In fact, the whole notion of ownership of vehicles is changing – in the next 15 years the idea of an individual owning one or more vehicles is becoming obsolete.  Fractional ownership of multiple vehicles by cooperatives of people will be the norm. There will likely be increased mobility by drone services (CES has several examples of this.)  How users and customers will engage will be of increasing importance for the success of the business models.


4. AI needs UX.

This was the year of AI at CES. It seemed every other booth had the letters “AI” on their signage. However, most of the AI applications cannot succeed without proper data that is human tagged. In fact, over the last couple of years, I’ve been involved in several projects to just collect data to train AI algorithms. This is not traditional UX by any means.  But UX professionals and psychologists have research and logistical skills to be able to collect data that will allow us to train AI algorithms.


5. UX will grow increasingly more important in the developing world.

2019 will see the need to increase understanding of the skills, knowledge, capabilities, needs and desires of the users in the developing world. All one must do is to look at the public record to see that Google, Facebook, Amazon and others are heavily invested in moving into places like Africa, Indonesia, India, and Brazil. These next billion users are the ones that the companies are targeting. There will be enormous investment put into the user experience research needed to serve these markets because of the wide language, and cultural diversity. The technological capabilities in these locations are vast and unknown to international manufacturers trying to design user tech. To be successful in this market these companies must develop products and services that would be a value to the users and of value to them as suppliers. UX research is global! (Shameless plug for my book) And global UX research partnerships like the UXalliance can help companies be successful in these markets with on-the-ground resources steeped in local knowledge.


6. Transformations in user security and privacy will demand attention.

The increasing spate of data breaches and identify theft create an opportunity for improved user experience. (If you want to understand, and be horrified as to what you sign up for when you hit ‘Accept’, I strongly recommend watching Terms and Conditions May Apply on Netflix.)  Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems famously said in 1999(!) “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”  The digital world has become much scarier since then; the bloom has come off the rose.  With all the upside in technology, there is a huge risk.  Companies that help us manage all the risks are going to be in higher demand – and UX will be at the forefront of this.  There should be better ways to protect and control who sees what about each of us.  Anyone who has had their identify stolen or been a subject of credit card theft knows how tedious it is to manage this.


Large dominant players, who once had a comfortable existence for decades, will find themselves under intense pressure from smaller start-ups who have learned how to care for the customer.  These small players are also not burdened by legacy systems that will continue to drag them down. Successful companies in the market, whether start up or established, must learn about: who the customers are, what the customers’ needs are, and how to design for those needs.

What are your thoughts on 2019 UX trends? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

This blog post is part six of a series, The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry, that discusses future technologies and some of the issues and challenges that will face the user and the UX community. Read Part 1 that discussed Singularity and the associated challenges with UX design , Part 2 that provided an overview of focus areas for AI to be successful ,  Part 3 that dug further into the concept of context in AI, Part 4 that proposed UX design principles for robot design, and Part 5  that highlighted Africa’s role in building next gen fintech


Is customer channel-hopping hiding UX problems?

Is customer channel-hopping hiding UX problems?



Listen to reasons customers contact you and use those reasons to diagnose problems in your channels that may be hiding.

As a company with many channels, you should always be looking at the ways in which customers connect with you. Movement across channels often reflects customer choice, but it also may reveal poor UX in a channel. In other words, ‘channel hopping’ is often driven by a failure of usability or a lack of functionality.

I was recently speaking at a J.D. Power roundtable on the topic of employee experience in the contact center. The point of the presentation, one that I have given many times, is that good design is hard work, and good design begins with field research not in Photoshop. When doing field research in call centers, we want to understand the motivations of why customers call. It’s fascinating to listen to customer stories because you realize that, in today’s omnichannel world, a majority of customers do not choose the call center as their first point of contact to resolve a problem. Which is good to know except what often happens is that customers fail to get resolution in one of the other channels (often related to poor UX) and feel forced to call.

In one concrete (and very typical example), customers call because they don’t understand their paper bill. The root cause of this is that the bill is difficult to understand. Information is in the wrong place, numbers don’t appear to add up, taxes are confusingly represented, critical information may be missing, etc. They may try first to go online to get more detail and may or may not be met with success. So, the poor design of a paper invoice results in customers spending time trying to resolve and ultimately calling to discuss it. Then the customer runs headlong into an interactive voice response system (IVR) and gets even more frustrated by choices that do not match the reason for calling in his mind and with excessive hold times. By the time the customer gets to the agent, there’s a lot of pent up frustration. Much of this could be fixed by using a UX research approach to improving the usability and utility of the paper bill. We’ve fixed many paper bills and driven down both the volume of calls and length of calls regarding bill education from the call center.

This is but one example. There are others where poor design in one channel drives callers to agents (e.g., self-installation of modems, credit decisions, etc.). All of these are examples of channel-hopping due to poor attention to the UX. And, these are all self-inflicted wounds that increase cost to the business and reduce customer satisfaction.

One lesson for UX professionals is that when trying to understand the current ‘customer journey’ it is important to catalog the times when the customer channel hopped because the prior channel failed to meet needs. Doing this gets at a root cause of the problem and tells researchers, designers, and developers where to concentrate efforts.

Ultimately, you should listen to reasons customers contact you and use those reasons to diagnose problems in your other channels that may be hiding. Pay attention to all your channels and continue to monitor for channel-hopping, then focus on fixing the problems you find.

Confirmation Fatigue: Enough with the reminders already!

Confirmation Fatigue: Enough with the reminders already!



While confirmations and reminders are essential and usually well intentioned, they are annoying. Organizations must uncover if and how their customers will use reminders and confirmations during user testing. Confirms should add to the user experience, not leave users feeling frustrated and tethered.
I just switched phones from iOS to Android. In re-creating my new phone environment, I was irritated by how many apps and settings I had to confirm. Later in the day, I got an email from my dentist office asking me to confirm my appointment. Then I made a reservation for dinner on an app, yet the restaurant still called (and emailed!) to confirm. What’s with all this confirmation?

If you believe the hype, digital media was supposed to make my life easier and more convenient. It hasn’t really. It’s just making me tired and crabby. It’s what I call ‘Confirmation Fatigue’. Confirmation Fatigue, along with its close cousins ‘Alert Fatigue’ and ‘Acceptance Fatigue’, are making me a slave to my devices: I get paranoid that if I fail to confirm my appointment it might be canceled (I am told, though I’m not sure as each hold an unclear consequence).

These are but a few examples in a normal day:

  • If my bank suspects that some credit card transaction I’m making is fraudulent, it will deny the charge and send me a text message to confirm (and I usually don’t see the message until after the embarrassment and I’ve moved on to another vendor).
  • Just about every site I visit in the European Union (EU) makes me agree to (i.e., confirm) that it’s OK to drop a Cookie on my machine as the EU Cookie Law requires me to consent. It’s as tiresome as it is annoying.
  • My pharmacy not only sends me texts, but also emails and phones to make sure I pick up my prescriptions. They have a mechanism to allow you to opt out of these aggressive reminders, but it has not worked for me.
  • My doctor knows that if I don’t confirm, I am less likely to show. So, they cyberstalk me to remind me and harass me until I confirm.
  • After requesting a rideshare, I still find that half of the drivers call me to confirm. Why?
  • Every time I start my car, my navi app makes me confirm that I won’t use my touch screen while driving. Every. Time. There are even web sites devoted to overriding the navi certain cars. (Yes, we’ve met your lawyer, we won’t hold you responsible, just let us use the app!)
  • Apple is notorious for confirming software updates to aggravating frequency.
  • Lastly, while writing this piece, Chrome asked me to confirm updates. Sigh.

How did we get here?

We got here, in many ways, because the user interface was made too easy. The apps allow us to quickly and conveniently set appointments because the machines are so good at reminding us, we are relieved of the burdening of remembering (I.e., we forget). While these reminders and confirmations are at one level reassuring, it tethers us to the tech in ways I wish we weren’t. I am the digital bitch – just the weakest link in the supply chain. And they know it.

A generation ago we might have to look up the phone number in the phone book, dial, speak to someone during business hours, and arrive at an agreed upon time. We had to make effort and that effort committed us to what we were asking: doctor’s appointment, plumber visit, or lawncare. Since the effort to agree on appointment dates and times are getting increasingly frictionless, our commitment and our memories are more fleeting. So the machines take over and set up alerts and reminders requiring us to (re!)confirm that commitment.

What can be done to reduce the need for reminding and confirmation?

There is no easy answer. Confirmations are here to stay and largely good, but they are annoying. The real question is: Does everything need confirming…and confirming…and confirming?

I have started to ignore requests in situations where I feel I am not required to respond, like my dentist or the pharmacy. In other situations where I am compelled to respond (like the bank example), I must give in to Skynet and confirm.

To bubble up critical confirmations from the noise, one approach might be to make people think and commit more deeply. For instance, and take a random example, if you are asked to confirm whether it’s OK to send a message to every mobile phone in the State of Hawaii about a missile launch, perhaps you should have to put in some effort. Be forced to think about things: for instance, “In order to confirm sending the SMS message, you have to enter the square root of the atomic number of Manganese”.

Obviously, I’m kidding, but the reality is, technology only works if it works for people. A little research can uncover if and how the user wants to be reminded – how strongly, how often, and where. So rather than inciting feelings of annoyance, it promotes a mental release of the burden of forgetting something in our cluttered minds or alerts us before we make a mistake which totally changes the experience.

Webisode: Why invest in global user research?

Webisode: Why invest in global user research?

While many organizations see the value in user research, there is sometimes a reluctance to invest in a global research program. Bob Schumacher, editor of The Handbook of Global User Research, breaks down what organizations can gain from global research.

This is the first in a series of three webisodes. Gain instant access to all webisodes in this series (and future webisodes) by subscribing to our monthly newsletter below.

Webisode 2 – Global User Research: Things to think about

Webisode 3 – Global User Research: Where to start

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