Comfortable User Experience
If a bad user experience is responsible for stress, anger, frustration or abandonment, what’s on the other end? Some say its user engagement or excitement, but can you really keep your users that excited for a long time?
An underrated feeling when building applications is the sense of comfort and security.
Feeling comfortable is awesome
Imagine yourself sitting on your favorite place and relaxing for a moment. Keep that image on your mind. Breath deeply and relax.
You could be drinking your favorite drink, reading your favorite book or enjoying your bestfriend’s company, but no. This is not about excitement. Still, you’d probably prefer that moment to many others of your stressful day.
So let’s start by admitting that a comfortable user is, in someway or another, a happy user.
But what does being comfortable really means?
What makes you comfortable after all
Feeling comfortable is feeling secure. Is being able to focus your mind on what you want without any distractions. Is the sense that you are in control.
Secure, focused and in control.
There’s also physical elements that may make you more comfortable, such as room temperature, noise level or light intensity, but when you’re building software you probably can’t influence the physical elements around your users, so we’ll keep those aside for now.
Your users feel secure when they trust your application. It’s a relationship that you’re able to shape around the aesthetics and behaviours that you “code” in your app.
Think about how you like to customize your phone screen, wallpaper or simply how you organize your applications. While it’s only an object, people like to make it personal. In some cases, they will even believe that their phones or apps have personality traits just like any other human or animal.
Building that trust relationship isn’t easy and many app developers forget where they stand. Remember the time you’ve spent filling forms in the past? First they started by asking you too much information and when you don’t understand why they need it, the trust is broken right from the start. Then they saved the best for the end: several red messages alerted you to the fact that you may be dumb. Yes, you had to correct all that information before submitting anything.
Feeling secure in a relationship is preventing one from making mistakes, not waiting for them to occur and then screaming about it.
There’s an excellent article by Page Laubheimer about Preventing User Errors: Avoiding Conscious Mistakes.
Your users will still make some mistakes along the way and some will occur on the system itself. When that happens, it’s time for a feedback message. Give the deserved attention to the copy you write in those messages, it’s a good opportunity to build on the trust: “we’re here making sure you don’t get anything wrong “.
A focused user is an efficient one
And and efficient user is definitely an happy one as well.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
One mistake I’ve often seen in many apps it's how features are presented: they’re too many and all over the place. We don’t need to know everything your app does at the same time, specially when someone decided to bloat it with low value features and someone wanted to make sure your users learned about it.
Having your users wasting its time on undesired features or visual elements it’s just that: wasting time.
Don’t measure UX or user effort by the number of clicks it takes finish an user story. While that may be true in many cases, you’re probably getting away from many other details that contribute for a good experience: time lost on finding the right element to click on.
Being in control
Your users need to feel that they understand your app and that they have control. You can message your users that you autosaved their work without they asking for it, but don’t get too smart on those features: don’t you all hate when autocapitalize works too well? Even after you went back and correct it several times.
You’re taking away control. You’re breaking the trust.
One simple way you can let your users know they are in control its by the ability they have to predict what will happen next: feedforward. Having good copy, following known patterns and being consistent is key to that.
Mixing it all together
Lets look at medium for example: it’s simple, allows me to focus on what I want and I can explore its features since I know I won’t do anything wrong or unexpected. I’m not excited, I’m pretty comfortable about it.