UX and the death of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Many businesses suffer from the ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ syndrome, where software or features are built on the suggestion of an individual or two. Time and money is spent on implementation, but often the results go by the wayside: never finished for lack of clarity of vision; never used for lack of user interest.

UX methodology avoids ‘ISLAGIATT’ projects.

It starts with the tenet that a business doesn’t necessarily know what its users want. But more than that: users don’t necessarily want what they ask for. That’s not as counter-intuitive as it might seem: though UX is firmly rooted in user evidence, that’s not synonymous with what they say they want.

My favourite example of this is an experiment run by Petter Johansson, a cognitive science researcher at Lund University. As explained by Petter and his colleague Lars Hall, two cards of same-gender faces were placed in front of participants. They were asked which face they found more attractive. Unbeknownst to participants, the moderator was a magician who, with slight of hand, presented the participants with the face they rejected. They were then asked to explain their choice.

Choice blindness face card experiment

The choice blindness experiment is a useful lesson for UX practitioners

75% of the time, participants were blind to the mismatch. Furthermore, the majority proceeded to give detailed reasons why they choose that face over the other, one remarking “I prefer blondes” (he’d chosen a brunette). Johansson calls this ‘choice blindness’.

To give another example, perhaps I’m designing the information architecture for a clothing e-commerce site. I present someone with a random list of all clothing categories and I ask them to find ‘shoes’. Understandably, they say – ‘I wish these were in alphabetical order’. However, that doesn’t mean that laying out categories alphabetically is the best approach for the website. What if a visitor wants to find a suitable gift for Christmas, or something cool for summer?

Understanding that users don’t necessarily ask for precisely what they want is a small piece in the long and broad road to great UX.

It’s a process and methodology that gives companies the tools they need to build better software – stuff that users actually want, that will drive businesses forward. It makes sure projects develop in line with user needs, that solve real problems, that tie in with business requirements, and that test assumptions.

Thankfully, the UX method kills ‘ISLAGIATT’.