Freedom of Control

Design experiences knowing that everyone will use them differently.

In a recent usability test I conducted at Qlik the most dominant piece of feedback from users was they wanted greater freedom in how they experience the app being tested.

Design by committee is an approach that many teams fall into that creates unintended usability issues. In a recent usability test I conducted at Qlik on an app designed this way, the most dominant piece of feedback from users was how they wanted greater freedom in how they experienced the app. 75% of users made a comment regarding how they didn’t like navigational restrictions limiting what pages they could go to. 62.5% of users made comments that they didn’t like being told what selections to make. Some, through the imp of the perverse, even said they were going to not select what they were instructed to, just because.

Rare is the user experience that should be experienced in a linear manner. Educational tutorials and e-commerce checkout processes are about the main two I can think of and both tend to use an architecture where the next screen builds on what was learned/accomplished in the prior screens. You can’t skip entering your payment method in an e-commerce experience and still expect to buy something, for example. You have to complete all steps in their sequential order to accomplish your task.

Most user experiences, including business intelligence apps, are designed to allow users to explore however they see fit. Everyone is different and how people will use an experience will vary based on why they are using the site/app in the first place. You can’t restrict users to move through a cattle chute from the first page to the last when users need to use the app in a variety of ways to solve a variety of problems.

When designing an app remember that people will almost certainly not visit all of the pages in the same order. Each page should stand on its own without assuming that users visited all of the other pages and acquired some sort of cumulative knowledge. If there are key metrics that users should know about, consider having them on every page to make sure they are seen. The reality of how we use websites & apps is that we all use them differently and they should be designed to allow for that.

Michael Anthony explains how users can have very different experiences with the same app!


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