Building a great product is hard. There are about a thousand things that can hurt your chances of success if you get them wrong. This is a list of some of the design fails that I have seen over the years. Most belong to the product manager’s and the CEO’s domain, but some are in the UX designer’s process, depending on how your company works. This list is based on my personal experiences and by learning from others.

Here are 10 common UX and Product Management mistakes that you can easily avoid:

Not Screaming Your Advantage

You know why your product is so much better than the competition’s, but new users have no idea. For your future, they have to learn fast. During your users’ first try, you have very limited time to convince them that they are going to love the product. Don’t expect them to patiently invest time in finding the hidden treasure. It has to be obvious and it has to be immediate.

A few years ago we were working on an innovative 3D home design app. We knew that its brilliant, but for new users, it seemed just another app in the category. It took at least 15 actions from the first launch getting to the point of “wow”. Not just any actions, but to succeed in a specific flow. The user had to take a proper photo of a space, adjust it as required and bring in products to design it. Understanding the huge disadvantage of this flow, we built a gallery of beautiful rooms predesigned with the app and put them on the home screen. The main call to action became redesigning the space, which essentially opens the design for editing. Now there were only two taps between first launch and “Wow, I can’t believe you can do that with this app!”

Block New Users Until They Sign Up

You are probably familiar with the following situation. You install a seemingly interesting app you found in the AppStore. You press the app icon to launch it for the first time. A brilliant splash screen fills your phone and then maybe another screen welcoming you to the app. That’s it. Now you are required to sign up. You look at the screen and ask yourself “Why? I don’t even know if I like it or not? Naaah!”. There is a good chance that this is the point where you give up. Uninstall the app and look for something else.

There are products for which late signup is not an option, such as messaging apps. However, if you do not absolutely have to require sign up as the first thing, ask for it later. Give your users time to get to know your product, even enjoy it. Only then ask for a signup. Now they know what they are signing up to and there is a better chance that they want to.

Trying To Reinvent The UX Wheel

It’s fun to invent new ways of interaction. In fact, some products use special UX elements at their core to be memorable and differ from the competition. Look at Flipboard for example. The unique flipping animation is way beyond user experience. It’s branding. Now try to imagine a local bus company’s app or a website for getting a doctor’s appointment with a unique experience that needed to be learned like Clear. In cases, where the unique solution is not the core of the product or it is irrelevant to the category, such an element can have a strong negative effect on the overall experience.

Taking Elements From Others Products Just Because They Seem Cool

Once in a while, there are clients who come to us with a brilliant example of user experience they found in other products. “We love it and we want it in our product too.” We analyze the example and try to understand its value. There are many cases where the solution is valuable to the example product but irrelevant for the one we are building. In order to bring in a solution from another product, it has to have an actual benefit in the one we are building. Otherwise, we create a meaningless pattern that can confuse users instead of add to their experience.

Using New Words That No One Understands

Everyone knows what download, share, edit, submit, password, profile, update, etc. means. In order to be unique, sometimes new products try to invent their own language. If you have actions in your product that are very different from anything that already has a name that everyone understands, then great, find a new word for it. But, be careful with it and test it with users. It’s hard to come up with a new word for an unfamiliar action that people easily understand. For all the familiar actions, use the word that everyone understands. Unless you want your users scratching their heads and asking “What does that mean?”.

Pushing Too Many Decisions To The User

To give people the freedom to make their own decisions sounds like a wonderful gift. The fact is, however, that people don’t really like making decisions. Think about all of those things that you are postponing right now. Some of them you probably avoid doing because they involve an uncomfortable decision. A good example of this happens every time I open a video file on my Android phone. I tap the thumbnail and a dialog comes up asking me to decide which player I want to use. Why? I don’t want to decide that. I don’t want to decide anything, I want to see the video! Wait…should I use this video player only this time or make it the default? When designing your product you should think hard and make all the decisions you can for your users and provide them a smooth, decision free path towards their goal.

I would suggest reading The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less? by Barry Schwartz. It is a very enlightening book on the subject. You can also watch his TED talk, its sort of the TL;DR of the book.

Defocusing The Product

Let’s take mobile apps, for example, the convention is that each app has one main function. It might know how to do other things as well, but that one thing is its real strength. It is easy to explain in a sentence what you can do with the Instagram, Google Maps or Amazon apps. Sure, some of them have secondary features, but they are designed for one main thing. Can you say the same thing about your product? You know that you have a problem when, while explaining what your product is about, you find yourself saying: It mainly does this, but can also do that and that. The examples above talk about mobile apps, but the same concept is relevant to any product, doesn’t matter on which platform it is being used.

Using Yourself As The Example User

This is a widespread disease. People walk around the office with their phone, tablet or laptop, playing with the product and making crucial decisions based on their own experience. Don’t think you can put yourself in the user’s shoes when it comes to your product. You know it way better than any user, you are explaining it to others over and over, you know how it works what are its technical limitations, you live the vision. Your users don’t. The only thing they know is what they see in front of them. Nothing else. You can’t go back to that point anymore.

Designing As If Your Product Is The Most Important One In The User’s Life

Your product is just one of many that your users try. For you it’s the world, for your new users it’s just another app or site they somehow stumbled upon. They are not going to be patient and give you chances to prove yourself. There are so many other options in the world. From the UX perspective, it means that you can’t ignore common practices hoping that they will struggle through anyway.

Not Listening To Your Users

Both your current users through feedback and people you bring in for user testing will tell you what they think about the product. The listening here has to be deeper than noticing what are the things they struggle with in the UI. Compare the information you gathered with your vision and the current state of the product. There is a good chance that you will realize that the way you envision how your product will be used is not even close to how people actually use it. Even the target audience can be completely different than what you planned for. So instead of fighting and making changes in the product to get to your vision, change the vision itself. Don’t stick to ideas just because you fell in love with them. Everything should be open to change and your users will tell you in what way.

Polar Hedgehog is a Product Management, User Experience and Design consultancy specializing in creating simple, intuitive and beautiful user interfaces for complex web and mobile apps.

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