The Expectation of Perfection & Other Sins We Love

We are lazy. We are impatient. We expect perfection, even when we don’t pay for it. We are quick to wrath when we don’t get what we want. We expect more than we deserve. We are the worst versions of ourselves when we are online and we are the best thing that has ever happened to your product.

Remember when you started building faster websites because users didn’t want to wait 3 seconds for a page to load? The Internet is what it is today because vocal users got their way.

We have to remain empathetic, while designing to delight. Let’s learn from our users and build them the best possible experience every time.

I’d love to give this talk at SXSW 2016 but I need your help.

Votes are appreciated

SXSW_Platinum-2015-RGBI could really use a few extra votes. I appreciate the thumbs up!
Vote Here ->

What you’ll learn

  • What do users really want and how do I give it to them?
  • When is a user the vocal minority and when are they actually teaching you something about where your product should be heading?
  • How do you learn from the sins of your users and build them a better product?

Advocate for the experience not your design

I frequently become emotionally connected to my work as I’m crafting it, a practice I’m trying to eliminate. It’s actually quite amazing how I see myself in my work, and when I don’t like something I’ve done I violently discard it. And yet, when it’s something I’m happy with, I nurture it, I envision how it will grow, and how others will of course compliment it. To this I say:

When we start a new project we often work with it one on one, at least in its infancy. Even if you’re working with a team your piece of the puzzle is most likely yours and yours alone.

It’s not until we have matured our wireframe, design, pull request, documentation or chunk of code that we feel comfortable sharing it. It is at this junction you have a choice to release your emotional connection with your work, or risk being bound to it.

One thing I’ve grown accustomed to, is sharing my work with my team (we’re hiring by the way) as soon as possible. The earlier I start getting critical feedback, the faster I can iterate, and the less likely I am to have fallen in love with what I’ve built.

Spending too much time alone with your work may result in a bond that makes it hard to be objective. At that point critical feedback can result in defensive maneuvering rather than logical debates. Fresh and new ideas that have been forked from my own can be seen as an imposter trying to one up my own work. User testing can be clouded by questions that lead rather than uncover. It goes on and on.

Not to be confused with designing for or with emotion

You should bring joy to people through thoughtful design! But, you can’t without empathy, and even then you shouldn’t become overly attached to your work until you know the value it brings. You shouldn’t eliminate emotion from your work, just be aware of your emotional connection to it.

Only after others have had the opportunity to interact with and love your work should you do the same. At that point you become an advocate for the people who use your products, rather than an advocate for your design.

Have you ever experienced an emotional connection to your work that has clouded your judgement? Come chat with me and others about it on Twitter.

Star ratings are a recipe for deception

There is a fundamental problem with star ratings. I have no idea how long these reviews have been coming in, and I can’t see any trends.

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Take a look at the Troy-Bilt Weed Wacker above. 765 reviews means it’s been on Lowes.com for quite some time.

With exactly 227 – 5 star reviews, and 227 – 1 star reviews it sounds like a solid 3 star product, but that’s actually really deceiving. It doesn’t mean I’m likely to get an average product that works but could be better. What it actually means is that I have a 50/50 chance of getting a working one.

How can we improve ratings?

Let’s trend those ratings so we can see what’s happening over the lifetime of the product. The data is obviously there on lowes.com so why not use it. If you told me when that 70% of those 1 star reviews were from 3 years ago, then I’d know that Troy-Bilt has obviously fixed a major flaw in the product.  If however most of those 1 star reviews came in, in the last 6 months that would mean something completely different.

article-2284725-184F692E000005DC-449_634x396Geographic locations may make a big difference too. If I’m looking for a snowblower and most of the 5 star reviews come from areas with very little snowfall that data isn’t really helpful for me. I’m more interested in what this person thinks.

Star ratings have been pulling a veil over our eyes for a long time, especially considering how much spam there is. In the end a great return policy makes it easier to just throw out ratings and just try it for yourself. I would prefer that over imaginary reassurance that I’m going to like the product.

Emails are dying, if you’re sending them you should take care to do it right

For me personally, marketing emails have to be super relevant or I’m off to click the sacred “unsubscribe” button. Movie Tickets (a service I rarely use) sent me an email today and the data they are sending me is really bizarre.

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To be honest the layout of the email was intriguing and I was interested to learn a bit about my movie habits. However, after 1 look I was immediately discouraged.

“Days since your first purchase” is wordy and frankly a bit strange. I’d rather be congratulated for being a long time customer. Also 3,338 days is kinda like a mom saying “little Johnny is 47 months old”. No, he’s not, he’s turning 4 next month.

Also I’ve clearly been around for a really long time, but rarely use your service. 10 tickets in over 9 years isn’t exactly impressive, maybe something to entice me to come back would be more appropriate.

The major takeaway here is that I didn’t even know that I was subscribed to MovieTickets.com updates before I received this email. I haven’t heard from them before so this was their 1 shot and now I’m off to unsubscribe:

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Where you arrive after clicking “update email preferences” there is no “unsubscribe” button.

Oh wait, I can’t unsubscribe because you didn’t provide an easy way to do that. I now have to login to an account I haven’t used in years to get off your list. Really? At this point the spam button is looking so good right now.