morpheus the real world
morpheus the real world
The Real World

With the advent of computers, designers (and a hell of a lot of other people) continue to forget about the “real world”. We like to climb into our warm bubbles and design things the way we believe they should be. The way we believe they should look, be used, function, behave, respond, feel, etc. And you know what,

sometimes we’re right.

This is because we have the necessary skills for the practice of Design.

But sometimes, we’re wrong.

This is usually due to laziness or lack of skill. But usually laziness. We know what we should do, we just don’t do it. We don’t follow all the steps in the development process.

One critical step in the process is Testing. Without testing you are basically throwing crap on the wall, and seeing what sticks.

Unfortunately designers today have fallen into the trap of thinking that “seeing what sticks”, and “MVP” or “agile” or “fail fast”, are the same thing. They are not. You can still be “agile”, you can still “fail fast”, and you can still release your “Minimum Viable Product” without skipping steps in the process. You just need to adjust how much time and resources you allocate to each one of them.

In the example below (Jora, a job searching app), it is most likely that testing was not skipped, but rather that the focus of the testing blinded the testers, and therefore allowed a design flaw to get through. The testing focus appears to be on whether 1. all the functionality is present, 2. all the buttons work, 3. the information the user is looking for is accessible, and 4. that the aesthetics are consistent and generally pleasant. Well CitizenRod, that sounds like some rather thorough testing to me…

So what has been missed?

citizenrod bad design app accessibility navigation
Jora – job searching mobile app

The basics.

Put it in your hand and use it. Try to use it as one of your “users” would. Pick up the phone and go job hunting. Do it while drinking coffee. Do it while walking. Do it while travelling on a train. Do it while having lunch. Do it while sitting on the toilet. You know the scenarios, you just need to re-enact them. All of these scenarios you can test in one day…even before you get to the office.

But I’m a designer, I can picture all the scenarios in my head.. Baloney!

In the next image you can see this app’s design flaw, and you can see that if the basics were tested, it would not have been missed.

citizenrod bad design app accessibility

Mobile phones are used, primarily, with one hand, and manipulated, primarily, by the thumb. Therefore the thumb needs to be able to reach the major functions. This reach is called the “thumb zone” (show in light blue).

So why would you put the “back” button (circled in red), outside the thumb zone? The “back” button is a major function for the user on this page, as it is a major navigational control. Therefore it makes no sense to put it out of reach.

No sense!

It makes no sense, when you use the app as a true user would, ie. in the real world.

On the other hand, it may make sense if you, are not drinking coffee, are not walking, are not travelling on a train, are not eating lunch, or are not sitting on the toilet, ie. it may make sense, if you are not in a situation that your “user” will actually be in… get it?

Yes, designers can picture all the scenarios in their head, but without physically going through them, design flaws will be missed and valuable lessons will not be learned.

If you come from the Industrial Design space like I do, physical design is always on your mind, regardless of whether you are designing a physical product or a digital product. But if you come from the UX/UI Design space, physical design may not always be on your mind. This is when basic usability can be missed.

The lesson?

There are many apps like this one. Even Apple cops slack each time they design a new iPhone that requires giant hands to manipulate it.

You don’t need a billion dollars to get it right.

Just get out of your bubble. Get out into the real world. Test in the real world. Take your “testers” out into the real world too. Lab environment testing is necessary, but “real world” testing is a must.


Citizenrod art design think

Citizenrod | art | design | think


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