Five examples of amateur UX from big league tech companies

If the 800-pound gorillas can’t get UX right, what chance have you?

You are not safe from bad design. If you think you are, you’re even more at risk.

If you are shelling out sums in excess of $200 per hour for UX design, you expect the end result to not suck. We’re well past the days when companies were tricked into thinking that they could simply repurpose front-end developers or graphic designers into UX staff. Gone and unlamented are the smug calls for “unicorns” who can both write code and draw pretty pictures, and somehow have cognitive cycles left over to conceptualize a winning user experience. In 2017, user experience is a discrete and delineated discipline.

So that means we must be living in a golden age of brilliant UX, a time in which computer rage is a distant, faded memory because dedicated designers have designed away the kind of technological buffoonery that once led to Office Space-style beatdowns.

Hahahahahaha no.

Of course, we aren’t. I’d bet money that you have already unleashed a few unminced oaths at some piece of s…oftware since you woke up this morning.

The sad reality is that there are a lot of hack designers out there. It’s not hard to see why. The market for UX designers appeared out of nowhere. There were more UX seats than butt cheeks to fill them.

Correlation is not causation, but you get the idea.

It’s not as though UX designers just appeared out of nowhere to meet the demand…

Actually, they sort of did. Companies were hiring anyone who called themselves a UX designer; they couldn’t afford to be picky. These were abundant times for enterprising wannabes. In the early 2010s, UX designers multiplied like sardines and flatbread at the hands of Jesus Christ. Years later, those hacks are still around, but now they have nice long, dangling resumes.

Although more qualified people have appeared in recent years, a lot of those hacks moved up the ladder in their field into leadership and even management positions. After all, the companies didn’t have any real UX designers to compare them with, and they still might not. Bad design might well now be ingrained in the very culture of a company, or at least a division, or several teams. The proof is in the pudding, or something brown at least.

I have compiled several examples of absolutely terrible, amateurish design from big tech companies that have big UX budgets and dedicated UX design teams to demonstrate that just because you hire someone with a “UX” background or hire an agency, you are not safe from these insidious crypto-charlatans.

I hope you haven’t eaten. This gets grisly.

Facebook

What is a more common occurrence? That I might want to stop getting notifications on my phone for a noisy thread where I made a throwaway remark, or that I want to entirely stop following the friend who posted it? The very fact that I participated in their content indicates that I find it at least somewhat worthwhile.

Unfollowing a friend is a much less frequent event than unfollowing a post, but Facebook makes it far easier to do the former, not only because of the size of the clickable area but also proximity to the initial click. This is such a sloppy design that I would actually suspect it to be one of Zuckerberg’s perverted dark patterns, but for fact that he probably isn’t focused on this level of detail.

Slop level: 7/10

Amazon

Amazon prides itself on a one-click checkout (perhaps a little too much actually) so it is very odd that they would not give me the ability to save products to a wishlist with one click. I would have to click on each product and then locate the not-obviously-located “add to wishlist” button, click it, then go back, and repeat the process. For one product, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if I want to go on a bookmarking tear, this will put a stop to my plans real fast. Every lost opportunity for me to remember what I want to buy is a lost opportunity for Amazon to take my money.

Slop level: 5/10

YouTube

Picture this scenario. You’ve got the video for Shotgun Messiah’s “Heartbreak Blvd.” playing on YouTube, and you are deep in the throes of a righteous headbang session. You decide to look at the comments to see who else agrees with you that Harry Cody is one of the most criminally underrated guitarists in rock history. You find a comment that pretty much steals the words from your mouth so you decide to give them a thumbs-up. One problem: you forgot you weren’t signed into Google.

Rather than neutralizing or hiding the rating buttons behind a “sign in to comment” placard, or throwing up a little error ballon, the very second you click a like/dislike button, it leaves the video completely, taking you to a sign-in page, right before Cody’s incendiary solo. Totally bogus. Heinous even. To add insult to injury, when you do sign in, it takes you to this page instead of back to your video:

No idea what cob nobbler thought that would be a good idea.

Slop level: 8/10

iOS alarm

Here’s another heinous scenario for you to ponder, one that you will appreciate even if you are not into early 1990s heavy metal. Imagine that you must give a presentation to the CEO at 9 AM sharp. It is currently 5 AM, as you have been up all night working on the presentation. Delirious with sleep, you set your alarm for 7:30. Unfortunately your alarm was set for 7:30 PM… on Saturday. You sleep through your alarm and miss your big presentation.

This all could have been avoided if the alarm had given you a secondary confirmation by telling you how long until your alarm would go off. In fact, Android already does this.

An alarm is often set by someone falling asleep from pure tiredness, or perhaps the effects of Lunesta, valerian, melatonin, alcohol, or cannabis. Someone setting their alarm is very likely cognitively impaired at the moment and thus the app should be as absolutely idiot-proof as possible.

Given that this feature is not patented, one might assume that Apple would gladly copy it from Google for their iOS alarm, as they have copied so many other good ideas. But year after year, version after version, they have stubbornly refused to add this idiot-proof feature. The fact that Apple is considered the be-all end-all of design brilliance makes this oversight all the more galling.

Slop level: 10/10

LinkedIn

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one.

For context, before their very recent redesign, this was how you looked at your own profile. By the looks of it, you might assume that it is a feature to view your profile from the perspective of different people, such as 3rd degree relations, non-members, recruiters, and so on, any of whom could be selected by clicking the down arrow.

You’d be wrong. Stupid.

Clicking the down arrow actually reveals a bunch of completely unrelated options stashed away the same way you have a catch-all drawer that contains expired matches, stale gum, and twelve sizes of IKEA allen wrenches. Of course, viewing your own content feed is a pretty important function to be hiding in your crap drawer, but that’s exactly what LinkedIn does.

This embarrassment is finally gone, but the very fact it was allowed to exist at all, let alone for so long is a matter of pure, unalloyed shame.

Slop level: Standard scale breaks. Flawless. 5/7.

You are not immune. Get audited. Now.

By now it should be clear that no company, not even those with a reputation for good design (deservedly or otherwise), are exempt from embarrassingly bad design. Spending lots of money is not a safeguard either. Mediocrity lurks at all price points. Good design sense is rare and a true attention to detail can’t be trained.

You need to get your UX audited by someone who knows what they are doing. An audit will reveal to you all sorts of usability issues that you never expected to find in your product, like the ones above.

When should you get audited?

  • When you are nearly ready to deploy a new product or version.
  • When you have recently deployed a new product or version.
  • If you had added a new feature.
  • When you have hired an agency.
  • When you have hired a new designer(s).
  • When you have a new developer(s).
  • If you have never been audited.
  • If you have not been audited recently.

What should you expect from an audit?

  • Much lower cost than a UX redesign. A typical startup’s product should require less than 10 hours to audit.
  • Upwards of 100 fixes. Depending on how complex or broken your product is, it might be over 200. You might be surprised what you find.
  • A focus on affordable fixes. If you’re not able to throw down on a redesign, a list full of “redesign this whole experience” will be worthless.
  • RESULTS. If you implement the fixes, you will have a better product and your users will tell you so (or perhaps they’ll stop telling their friends the opposite).

Whether it is to work the kinks out of a new product or to apply carnauba wax to an old turd that you can’t afford to replace yet, an audit will at least prevent you from looking bad.

Interested yet? Want free stuff?

If you would like to discuss the possibility of an audit for your technology product — software or hardware based — then come visit Claußcreative and ask for a freebie audit. I’ll give you the first ten fixes no charge. What do you have to lose?


Jason published this while listening to “Luxury Cruiser” by T-Ride.

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