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1.2 Why the Secret of Good UX Design Is Saving Users Time

In this lesson, we’ll look into why users are precious about their time, how poor interaction design amounts to stealing users’ lives, and what we as designers can do to accommodate them.

We’ll look at examples of when our products typically waste users’ time, and where we can make small (yet crucial) improvements.

Thanks for following this Coffee Break Course, and good luck saving your users time in the future!

1.Why the Secret of Good UX Design Is Saving Users Time
2 lessons, 10:00

Free Lesson
1.1
Welcome to the Course
00:36

1.2
Why the Secret of Good UX Design Is Saving Users Time
09:24


1.2 Why the Secret of Good UX Design Is Saving Users Time

[MUSIC] Hello, welcome to this video of the importance of saving the user time. My name is Paul Boag, and I'm gonna to share with you why saving the user time is the single biggest thing you can do to improve the user experience. You see, our users are precious about their time and we've got to stop wasting it. The single most important commodity in Western society isn't money or even status, it is time. We are protective of our time and with good reason. We've got so many demands on it, haven't we? We're under so much pressure. There's so much we've got to do. People will hate it when they have their time wasted, especially online. We spend so much of our time online these days and every interaction demands a slice of our time. One minor inconvenience on a website might not seem much to you as a developer, but accumulated is like death by a thousand cuts. Steve Jobs once claimed that improving the boot time on the Macintosh would save lives. He reasoned the ten seconds improvement on boot up added up to many lifetimes over the millions of users booting up their computer multiple times a day. Now, millions of people might not use your website, but millions do use the web as a whole. And together, we're stealing people's lives through badly designed interactions. So when do I work on a website, I have one question in my mind, front and center and I want you to have that question too. Am I saving myself time at the expense of my users? You see, that's the heart of the problem. And our desire to meet deadlines and to stay on budget, we often save ourselves time by taking shortcuts that ultimately steals that time from the user. Let's explore some examples of what I mean. Now, the most obvious example of wasting users time is website performance. This is what Steve Jobs was getting at when he was talking about his boot time. If our websites are slow, then we waste our users valuable time and start to irritate them. One more cut, so to speak. The problem is that improving performance is hard. We have got quite lazy about it as broadband has become so widespread. We cut corners on image optimization, HTTP requests in JavaScript libraries. Now, users are ultimately paying the price for this, because now they're accessing our websites on slow mobile devices and over cellular networks. Making our websites faster will take time and effort, but why should the user suffer for what is ultimately our problem? On the subject of making our problem the problem of our users, let's take a moment to talk about CAPTCHA. CAPTCHA is the ultimate example of offloading all problems onto our users. How many millions of hours have users wasted filling in CAPTCHA forms? Hours wasted, because we haven't addressed the problem of spam bots. Just to be clear, I'm not even just talking about traditional CAPTCHA either. I'm talking about any system that forces the user to prove that they're human. Why on Earth should they have to do that? Once again, this is a problem that we have. That we're putting on our users and it's inconveniencing them, and draining their precious time. We could solve this problem, if we put the time into it. There are things like the honeytrap technique. There's also server side solutions for filtering out automated requests. The problem is that it is easier for us to throw CAPTCHA at the user and force them to fill it in. Not that CAPTCHA is the only way we waste user's time when it comes to completing forms. In fact, sometimes we even waste the user's time when we try to help them. Take for example, postcode look-up. I've been to websites that try to save me time by asking me to enter my postcode, so it can then auto populate my address. What a great idea saving me time with all that typing. Well, it would be if it worked. The problem is that some look-up scripts require the postcode to not have any spaces. Instead of the developer configuring the script to remove any spaces when the user enters them, they just throw back an error and tell the user to correct their mistake. Why should the user have to enter their data in a particular way? Why waste their time by asking them to reenter data they've already entered once? This doesn't just apply to postcodes, either applies to telephone numbers and email addresses. We also need to get better at helping users fill in forms when they interacting on a mobile device. Forms are particularly painful on touch screen, so we need to come up with alternative controls, controls such as sliders or help entering credit card details. Then of course, there are passwords. Why do we waste so much of users time creating passwords? Every website these days seems to have an ever more complex set of requirements for the passwords. Now, don't get me wrong. Security's important, but can't we come up with something better than asking people to come up with an arcane mix of upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols? Why can't we just ask people to type in a long phrase? Why couldn't my password be, this is my password and I defy anyone to guess it? The length would make it more secure and it would be much easier to remember. If your system doesn't like the spaces in a long password phrase like that, then you could strip them out behind the scenes. You could even provide an option for people to see what they're typing, so they don't miss type a longer sentence like that. If you can't do that, at least provide instructions when the user then goes to log into the website. Remind them whether your website wanted uppercase or a certain number of characters. That would at least help them to remember their password for your website. The important thing is to recognize that people have to log in all the time. There are a lot of those kinds of tasks. Tasks that we should be giving extra attention to, because they have to be done a lot. We should ask ourselves not only whether we're offloading our problems on to the user, but whether with repetitive tasks like that, we can save user's time. Take those common tasks that users do time and again on websites. Could we shave off a quarter of a second of those tasks? Something like search, for example. If a user enters a search term on your website, can we just hit the return key to submit the query or do they have to click on the search button? You could save the user time there. Drop-down menus are another good example. Navigating country pickers is particularly painful, isn't it? Could you display those countries differently make the most common ones easier to access? In fact, there's loads of things you could do to improve country pickers if we just took the time. For that matter, more robust solution to something like remember me functionality would be great. So many times they don't seem to work. Now I'm aware that so far this video might sound like I'm just having a rant against developers, but that's not the case. It's a problem that's faced by all of us as web professionals. Designers need to pay closer attention to the details of the interfaces we create. Website managers need to secure extra budget to allow us to refine these interfaces and do these extra things that need doing, and content creators need to optimize their content for faster consumption. We waste so much of user's time with the boss poorly written content, this is too dense, making it hard for people to find the information they need. The real shame of it is there's so much we could do to help. For a start, we could give the user a sense of approximately how long it's gonna take them to read the page. Now, I offer this functionality on my personal blog and it's one of the most commented on features I have. Users love knowing how long it's gonna take them to read a post. We can also do a lot to make our content more scannable. We can use headings, pull-out quotes and lists. Finally, we could take a leaf out of Jacob Nielsen's book. And on our websites, include a quick summary at the beginning of the page to say what the page is about. We could do so much more on every aspect of web design to save people time. From information architecture to analytics, we waste so much of it and the trouble, the real sad thing is we even know we're doing it. We should forever be vigilant and always be asking ourselves, how could we save the user time in this situation?

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