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When should UX be deliberately uncomfortable?

by Helen Kokk, October 25, 2019

We customarily think about user experience (UX) as something that has to be seamless and intuitive. What if I said that sometimes, to deliver great UX, you need to pave the journey with well-positioned disruptions?

Let me explain. One-click user experience is the feather in the cap. The ambition is reasonable and relatable. However, what might get us in trouble with this ideology is the risk of becoming overly seamless. By focusing only on fast and intuitive service and overlooking the importance of conscious thinking followed by intentional actions, we can turn the user experience into a terrible one in the blink of an eye.

Disrupted on purpose

Take GitHub for instance — an otherwise seamlessly working service where it is impossible to delete the work done with merely one click. You have to go through the trouble of typing in the exact name of the project you wish to remove.

Think about bank transfers or tax declarations. Even in a truly digital country like Estonia, where tax declarations are pre-filled, you still have to take a few minutes to validate the data and confirm. This ‘disruption’ is there for a good reason.

Thinking fast and slow

To understand the need for the ‘disruption’, we have to consider how people think. According to the Israeli psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, our decision-making habits can be classified as System 1 and System 2.

System 1 concerns thinking fast — the decisions we make with little to no mental effort. For example, quick decisions you make by following your gut or your intuition.

System 2 represents thinking slow — conscious and deliberate thought. This is when we analyze data, make big decisions and solve problems.

People generally gravitate toward System 1. It is natural to look for the easiest resolution. However, good user experience should protect us from that desire by integrating constraints where appropriate; thus, reminding us of the weight of the decision we are making by our click of a button.

Workshopping unveils the truth

However, problem-solving is not as easy as it sounds. As UX designers, we might not always know what represents System 1 versus System 2 for a specific industry such as medical professionals or experts in a particular field.

For this purpose, insight into a domain, as well as into an organization, is required. Workshopping via Customer Journey Map and Service Design Blueprint allows us to gain answers to our questions as well as unveil what we do not yet know and, therefore, cannot ask about.

Customer journey map or service blueprint — what is the difference?

Where end-to-end journey map addresses the user perspective of the service at various points in the journey, the blueprint addresses the organizational perspective at these same points in the user journey. This means it is important to discover not only the experience of the end-user but also the behind-the-scenes machinations of an organization when delivering that experience.

It is important to understand whether the organization is ready to deliver on the experience as designed. Or are there bottlenecks or shortcomings within the organization to address so promises can be kept?

Look beyond the obvious

The solutions might not always be in the places we first look. And in order to deliver great user experience, we must look at processes in front of and behind the scenes holistically. Creating great user experience is about the people and processes that enable a great service as well as user experience designed in a way that serves both the business goals as well as the end-user’s best interests.

Helen Kokk

Helen Kokk

Helen Kokk, User Experience and Service Design Lead at Nortal, has almost 15 years of experience with user experience and user interface design. She’s passionate about entrepreneurship, branding and identity. Kokk has helped clients rethink their approach to the UI and UX for their services on numerous occasions and would be happy to do the same for you. Get in touch with her via email.