October 13, 2014 - No Comments!

Bad UX and what we can do about it

Designers love designing, and they especially love it when it’s easy and there are few constraints.  We’re all guilty of this sin – it allows us to sit back, relax and bask in the glory of typography, colour and space.

Unfortunately the real world isn’t like that.  Designers are hired to solve problems – not mess around with Photoshop filters.  Too often the latter happens and it damages our profession.  How can we be taken seriously if we can’t rationalise what we’re doing?

Of course, a balance has to be struck.  An entirely functional design isn’t always a good one.  It may lack a visual hierarchy and acceptable spacing between elements.  Just because it gets the job done, doesn’t mean it gets it done in the best way.  That’s where designers can step in and show their skills.  And that’s where we seem to be most needed.

During the past couple of years, I’ve been exposed to a fair bit of “enterprise-grade” commercial software.  It’s bad.  Sometimes very bad.  Certainly in the property industry, most applications look like something from the Windows 95 era.  They are poorly laid out, difficult to navigate and hard on the eye.   These applications not only fail from a usability standpoint, they also fail at being interesting or fun to use.  The first is bad enough, but the second shows that the developers are out of touch with the end users.  Good software design should inspire and delight us.  When it’s difficult to learn, frustrating to use and a chore, no-one wants to use it.

Why aren’t these companies hiring designers and UX experts?  And why don’t businesses vote with their feet and go with modern software?

It seems like it could be a question more deeply routed in the IT world.  Companies like buying software they’ve bought before.  Sysadmins like fixing software they’re familiar with.  If a piece of software is poorly designed, there often isn’t anyone to point it out, or those that could are afraid of upsetting the apple cart.

We need UX champions, people who’ll point out that a piece of software sucks and will do what they can to improve or fix it until it does the job properly.  Much of this “enterprise-grade” software costs thousands of pounds, yet the attention invested in design makes it appear worth nothing.  This will only change when designers and users come together to improve the overall standard by demanding better.  Maybe it’s time to name and shame?  At the very least, Dribbble needs to be filled with accountancy and estate agency software mockups instead of IMDB and Wikipedia redesigns.

Published by: Dave Robertson in Uncategorized

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