Bertus Kock

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Cost of Simplicity

You probably have a friend, we all do, or it might even be yourself who installed an app, tried to use it but just couldn’t “get” it. It required a lot of effort to find the value. It just wasn’t simple.

If you want to become a rocket scientist, there is a certain amount of knowledge you will need to acquire in order to understand the field. This takes time and effort. The same goes with an app you are trying to use, although hopefully less tricky than rocket science. You also need to gain an understanding of the data and information being communicated to you. When a company wants to create a particular experience (their intention) for you, it is “communicated” through the apps’s use of UI, colours, text, symbols and information architecture.

Cost of Understanding

In “Figure it out“, the authors Stephen P. Anderson and Karl Fast talk about how information needs to be understood in relation to people and their needs (“…designer Richard Saul Wurman in the late 1980’s… information that failed to inform was merely data…”) and this process of making something understandable has a cost. This cost could be time and effort or learning new skills and developing better skills on the side of the sender or receiver. This cost of effort, from an UX perspective, should ideally be on the sender’s side.Cost of Simplicity

This “cost of understanding” I found very useful as an analogy when it comes to simplicity, as “understanding” very much relates to “simplicity”. The simpler something is for the user (receiver), the easier it is to understand. But, if understanding has a cost, where does it go if you need to make it easier for a user?

The “cost of understanding” is the total cost of the “knowledge” transfer moving from one person or app to another person. What you have to figure out is, who is “paying” for it. Simplicity is the science and sometimes art of shifting the balance of that effort towards the communicator, business or app.

Shifting the Cost of Simplicity

If you don’t make the effort to “simplify” it, the cost of the understanding sits with the user. They have to make the effort in understanding what you are trying to communicate. If you put in the additional effort of creating for example: automating tasks, providing predictable options, auto-completing forms you already have information on, you take some of that cost away from the user. If your business takes on the cost of simplicity, you will not only have taken on the challenge of building for humans, but also give your product to test its viability as soon as possible. There is nothing worse than having to give up on a good valuable idea, because people didn’t “get” it.   

And that is what simplicity is in UX; going the extra mile, so that users don’t have to.

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Going from persona to person

Over the past year or two, I have found myself wondering about a better life with personas. Are personas giving us enough or can we do more? Real people’s needs, attitudes and behaviours shift or change over time and sure, there will always be new people that fit a persona, but should we be okay with letting people go? That might be okay for an entertainment app, but it probably is not okay if you want to provide long term customer value. 

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Image copyright by Atlassian

The End of Feature Requests

Have you ever been on the end of a long string of feature requests, either from users or management? These feature requests are usually very specific in how you are supposed to implement it. So much so that you, as a UX Designer or Product Owner, you sometimes feel like a tool. Well, there is a very simple way to change that. All it is going to take is for you to ask one simple question, and that question is: “What are you trying to achieve?”

“What makes this question so special?”, you may ask. Let me explain. This question does three things.

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By RyAwesome / Ryan Clare from Vancouver, Canada. [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

eCommerce Registration and the Path of Least Resistance

The best interface, is no interface.” These were the pearls of wisdom offered by Alan Cooper back in 2012. Fast-forward six years, and here we are with ecommerce: forced registrations, whimsical delivery times, late/cancelled deliveries, basket analogies, wishlists, broken mobile-web journeys & impersonal recommendations.

If “Customer is King” and we follow User-Centered Design (or any of the other variants of UX), why is it that businesses, marketing and even sometimes UX put obstacles in the way of users reaching their goals?

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“Be the change you want to see in the world” ~ Not Gandhi

Deep Diving into “Why?”

After “What are you trying to achieve?“, my second-favourite and most used question, is “Why?”

Anyone who has ever engaged the inquisitive mind of a four-year old has had the experience of answering the dreaded follow-up question of ‘but why?’. While this line of questioning has lead to many frustrated adults, this line of thinking has inspired the problem-solving approach employed by some of the top companies and leaders in the world.

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The secret benefit of tree testing

“Tree testing is a usability technique for evaluating the findability of topics in a website. It’s also known as ‘reverse card sorting’ or ‘card-based classification’” ~ Optimal Workshop

The test works like this. You take your current navigation structure, which in case of an ecommerce site might be quite wide (product range) and deep (product sub categories) and list them on a tool like Treejack from Optimal Workshop. You then ask users to navigate this menu and indicate where they would expect to find a certain product. For example: “Where would you find Black Shoes for a school boy?” The user then might navigate down your menu structure through “Fashion – Men – Shoes” or they might go through “Kids & Toys – Fashion” or through “School – other”. It all depends on which items you have available in your menu and which words interest their train of thought. This leads to an interesting graph on how many people find your product and which other paths they take. If a big portion of your users can’t find your product, you will need to move it to the category they expect to find it, or maybe not…

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