The projects we’re working on at the moment have taught me a few lessons about unexpected user behaviour and valuable user feedback that I thought I would share here. There would definitely be a lot more to say about the subject, but I’ll concentrate on my particular recent experience. Let’s have a look.
1. Users explore
When users sign up to a new application, a system they’re not familiar with, they like to explore. What does that mean? Well, quite simply, they click everywhere to see what happens. And they get stuck because they didn’t follow the path that you expected.
There is no rationale behind this behaviour. It’s totally unpredictable. But it happens.
So what do you do?
Well, now that you’ve read this, you’ll make sure that users don’t get stuck if they click on the wrong button. Or that, at least an admin can reset the system for them.
If you haven’t thought about this completely random type of behaviour, you add quick fixes to your system, such as asking them twice if they really want to perform that crucial action.
2. Language is paramount
We already know that content is a key part of any successful web application. It should be clear and informative so users know what it’s all about, but appealing (i.e. not boring) at the same time. You need to engage your users and make them want to discover more (by clicking in random places for no reason).
But when you’ve been working on a project for months, words that seem crystal clear to you, might not be so obvious to your users. A quick example: does the word ‘conversation’ imply a one-to-one meeting or can it just be an exchange of emails? You don’t have the same context as your users and you never will. So it’s important to run your content through people who are not familiar with your application.
3. Listen to your users
Users feedback is extra valuable, whether it’s good or bad, so you need to listen to them, and, most importantly, act upon it. If they’re confused, make your message clearer. If they don’t know what to do next, review your calls to action. If they click in the wrong places, review the user flow and understand why they got it wrong.
What am I trying to say? Simply that launching your web application is usually only the start of a journey, not the end. Obviously not so much so if you had the time and budget to do extensive user testing before building the whole thing. If you haven’t, it’s not the end of the world, it just means that you’re going to spend some time perfecting your app. I don’t see anything wrong with that, as long as you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and good communication with your first users.
Your goal should be to understand why your users behave the way they do, and if you ask them, they’ll probably tell you, so listen and react.
photo credit: Extra®Ordinary on Flickr