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Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Users Say They Want Isn’t Always What They Need

10:25:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments

In 2004, me and my co-blogger Anders Bännstrand defined and designed the user experience of the first version of hitta.se, now the leading Internet service for finding people, business and locations on maps in Sweden. The service was developed from scratch with a new and unknown brand, set up to compete with the market leader eniro.se.

Many things made the service become a success, one of them being a simple and convenient user experience. And a big part of designing the user experience was involving users to test and evaluate it. But before involving any users, we set up a number of guiding principles to lead the design:

  • It should be fast, consistent, forgiving and give clear feedback.
  • It should present important information, including maps, as quickly as possible after a search was executed.
  • It should have a human touch to the visual design.
  • But above all, it should be simple, simple and simple.

Quite recently, the competitor service eniro.se was redesigned in order to be able to compete better with hitta.se. When launching the new version, Eniro proudly communicated how they had involved users when defining and designing the new user experience. Enhancement requests were gathered from users and user involvement played an important part during the design process. But, what strikes me is that the principle of simplicity seems to have got lost somewhere in the design process. Simplicity is very tightly related to the concept of consistency, which is about holding together and retaining the shape of the service throughout the entire user experience. This is something every designer should know. Nevertheless, eniro.se almost feels liquid, entering a new shape at each page reload.

Regardless of what users say they need from a utility service such as hitta.se or eniro.se, it is reasonable to assume that they first and foremost need a fast, simple and convenient user experience. If you start out with that approach and stick to it throughout the design process, user involvement will help you to develop a great user experience. You should listen to what the users have to say, but when listening you should filter everything they say through the "Simplicity filter". Because what users say they want isn’t always what they need. They often say they want a lot of features, but what they probably want the most is something that is simple and intuitive to use.

"Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means." — Koichi Kawana

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