Ask UXmatters is a monthly column in which our panel of UX experts answers our readers’ questions about a broad range of user experience matters. To get answers to your own questions about UX strategy, design, user research, or any other topic of interest to UX professionals in an upcoming edition of Ask UXmatters, send your question to us at: [email protected].
“These are my principles; if you don’t like them, I have others.”—Groucho Marx
For a long time, I’ve been an advocate of creating standards, guidelines, and patterns as a way of achieving design consistency within a large organization. While these do offer significant benefits, they also introduce a number of problems into the design process.
Some Problems with Design Standards
First, standards can provide a false sense of expertise in design. Calling something a standard, by its very nature, seems to imply that a great deal of research, thought, and experimentation has gone into its creation. It is likely that the proper stakeholders and experts have approved it. So designing something in a way that differs from a standard sets the designer against the people who set the standard and the weight of the work that they have done. No mean feat. Particularly for people who are new to an organization or junior designers, it can be easier to keep their head down and avoid challenging a safe option. In some organizations, particularly those that outsource a lot of design work, a reliance on standards can also lead to stakeholders using the standards to design solutions themselves, bypassing the UX design team. Read More
Most of us have experienced the struggle of seeking help on a Web site, only to end up in a link-clicking loop that leaves us more confused than we were to begin with.
The goal of self-service sites is to help users find answers themselves, forestalling the need to contact a real person. Take a look at WebMD for a good example of such a site, as described on the Kayako Blog, in “How WebMD Moms Are Shaping the Future of Support.” When such a site is done right, it leads you straight from symptoms to diagnosis to cure. However, if self-service sites are done poorly, they’re hard to navigate and offer no effective way to find the information you need or to learn about next steps. The only thing that’s left to do is to call a customer-service agent, who hopefully will have the information the user needs.
Great UX design can solve this problem. In 2013, the UK Government Digital Services (GDS) team won Design of the Year for its self-service Web site GOV.UK, beating contenders in fashion, architecture, and product development. One of the judges even remarked, “It creates a benchmark … all international government Web sites can be judged on.” Read More