My father’s UX, My brother’s and mine

How do we personalize experiences for each user and why should we?

A simple example for this is mail. My father was frustrated with his mail account after they apparently redesigned the Yahoo mail to add him a preview pane below the unread messages list. my father soon turning 70 is not a tech fanatic and as he a said to me “ just want it to be the way it was before , the way it was always like”.

This is a very common problem for rolling out new features.

here is a gif showing how you would go about it, if you want to add the feature.

The interesting thing is, when I first started using Gmail, after using yahoo’s preview pane, i disliked the fact that I need to go back and fourth to the inbox and messages themselves.

After a bit of research i came across a google lab’s plugin that essentially enables the same thing.

My older brother loves using outlook, which by default shows a master-detail approach. So this means me, my father and my brother have a similar ui pattern but very different needs. These are not just user habits we are talking about. Because the key to my father’s problem is a matter of choice. The users pain in both cases is adapting to the users need. Can we adapt to the user without asking him? That’s the basic personalisation— giving you what you want without needing to ask.

Why do restaurants have a menu?

First of all I do want to point out that the best way to personalisation is still to ask someone directly what do they want. For example, most changes in a daily-used program should be a part of a dialog with the user, at least to avoid pain and frustration. This is especially achieved in products with an active online community, like deviantart or Wordpress for example. That said, people use interface not as an end but as a means to an end. or as Steve Krug said “Don’t Make Me Think”. add the basic input problems and your better of guessing what the user should need.

How can we determine the need?

  • Based on device : like say screen size and responsive design. today ux designers know that a user uses a PC and a smartphones on very different scenarious.
  • Based on history : like google’s use of your data, we can determine certain properties based on past user actions. This is a good approach to personal devices, of course, since a work shared computer, can give one person anothers reasults.
  • Based on user flow: this basicly means we divide our personas to their individual uses. This is most easy to explain in gaming, dividing the players by usage to different types of players. A more recent example is snapchat’s “memories” allowing different types of users to use snapchat like a regular photo tool(unlike the original target audience who found the anonymity and photo erasing appealing). This means we change and adapt patterns to fit different use cases. Its especially noticeable in complex products like social networks, in which different people use it differently.
  • Based on behavior : meaning we take into consideration different variables like time location, key words.. well just about anything. Golden Krishna wrote some interesting thoughts on this matter (and what to look forward to) in his book.

Of course this list goes on and on..

Have you used an interesting personalisation method? Write about it in the comments…