So I downloaded Paper by Facebook the other day (aside: why they just didn’t name it “Facebook” I have no idea). I watched the icon fill in with anticipation and got really excited when “Loading” changed to “Paper”. Of course a bit of wind went out of my sails when I opened the app and immediately got a tutorial about the app’s features. I did my best to quickly dismiss all of that and get to the app, so I could discover the awesomeness that was supposed to exist within my four inch screen, but they kept following me. Everywhere I went within the app, there were more directions! They didn’t seem to stop. At this point, I’m not even certain if they ever do.
I’ve had a saying since I began building apps which is “If I have to tell you how to use it, I didn’t do my job right.” I love user tests. I love them because when we build products we’ll get feedback (generally on the pain points) but we don’t know all of the experiences people have with our products at every moment. So user tests give us the opportunity to see and hear the reactions in the moment. And the tests that validate why I do what I do are the ones where I get to watch people’s faces light up when they discover something new. It may not be something “innovative” or completely novel, but the feature or action was there when they needed it and the app did what they thought it should do with each interaction.
LukeW has a post about Just In Time Education with mobile design that concludes with “The trick to getting just in time education right is revealing useful information when people actually need it not when they don’t.” And functionally, I think that is spot on. But the thing that I kept thinking when using Paper was that its not any fun. When we talk about UX we often talk about it from the perspective of helping a user get from one place to the next and complete a task, but I firmly believe we also need to talk about the amount of joy someone feels when they are doing that task. After every action, it seemed like, Paper kept telling me more and more about their features. Why? I ask you, Facebook, is your app so complicated that I wouldn’t be able figure it out? And to make it even worse, these instructions were in the form of a popup. That I had to dismiss. So they stopped me from doing the action I was trying to do, to tell me either how to do it, or how to do something else. I really just wanted to scream at this app “What, do you think I am an idiot, Facebook? Do you think I don’t know how to use my phone? Or that I don’t understand the concepts of Facebook? You’ve been around for ten years now. I think I get it. I read a post. I can like it, comment, or share. You didn’t fundamentally change that. You just changed the packaging around it. If your new app is any good, I’ll figure it out!!!” But if I had yelled that at the app, I suppose the people around me would have thought me insane. So I didn’t. Instead I quietly backgrounded Paper and went to Twitter.
So I guess the point here is that its important that we think about ease of doing tasks when building products, but its equally important to think about how people feel while doing the tasks. Apathy does not create promoters. Joy creates promoters. And as builders of products, we need to think about that with every decision we make – How much joy will this decision give or take away?