If it’s worth doing, it’s NOT worth overdoing.

Tiny UX details can turn an ordinary product into a beloved one. Overuse them and see the great UX of your product fail.

That happened when I first noticed the browser detail of Invision. For those who don’t know, Invision’s blog changes the title of the page when you are browsing away (see screenshot below). The title changes to “Don’t forget to read this…” to make you check back again later.

Invision tab with the “Don’t forget to read this…” text

When I first saw it, a big smile shaped on my face while I kept going back n forth to see it happening again and again and again. My excitement though didn’t last long, because as a king of procrastination, I usually open tens of tabs with articles, to read them later and they always end up open and inactive for quite some time. While I was doing some housekeeping, by closing unused tabs, I faced these three identical tabs:

Three Invision tabs using the same title

Three identical tabs of three entirely different articles!

I am thinking how beneficial is an enhancement like this after all. Does it give any real value or it just adds a layer of coolness and craftsmanship to your product? If someone has to think what is the right tab to press, then it has failed, for the simple principle that great UX is invisible and it doesn’t set any barriers. Take a look at Facebook for example. It is using a very similar method to make sure you will see the unread notifications. And it does it with a such way that it works!

Facebook shows a counter in addition to the original title

It works because browser titles are as old as the web and the connected conventions to them are deeply rooted in our computer interaction behavior. The deeper a root is, the bigger the habit becomes and habits make humans act without thinking. When the cue of a habit breaks, then humans get stuck and have to think how to proceed. That happens to Invision; users expects to see the article title on the browser tab and interpret that into an action. When the title is missing, users have to take another path to achieve their goal. In this case, you have to click every tab to see what’s inside.

Great UX is minimal and complementary; it helps a user go from A to B without an effort, as easy and beautifully as possible. By doing this, it can have a major impact and make your users happy and excited to user your product. Habit-driven UIs are extremely effective when they are made carefully. To get there you need to understand your users’ behavior and inspect closely their routines through the entire flow. Then setup cues that trigger routines were lead to final reward, which in our case is “understand the context of the tab without clicking it”. I suggest you explore¹ the topic of habits in user behavior, to create effective and subliminal user experiences.

Facebook succeeds for that reason. They don’t break your normal habit, instead they use your “primal” cue to enhance your experience, by providing more information. Facebook tab works on itself; you know that you have five (5) new notifications without even going into the page, without even pressing the tab to see inside. Compared to Invision where you have no clue. I don’t know what’s the actual goal at Invision HQ, if it’s purely traffic, they are super-successful but if its user experience then they need some extra work.

What are your suggestions, how would you approach a feature like this? Leave your comments or tweet me @ckor

¹ If you would like to read more about habits I highly recommend:
📖 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change

Here are some alternatives ideas.

Using animated text
Using a shorter reminder
Using emoji 😃