Improving UX doesn’t “dumb down” your product. It enhances efficiency.
My daughter is headed back to school next week, and we went to the doc for her physical yesterday. During the visit, we discovered that there was an old medication listed in her chart that needed to be removed from the system. The doc we were working with said, “UGH I need to go get the nurse who has worked here for 20 years to fix this.”
I was a bit surprised, and it must have shown on my face, because the doc followed up with, “The workflow for this is a nightmare. She’s one of the only people who can do it quickly.”
The veteran nurse came in, and no joke, had to go through 16 screens to make it happen. SIXTEEN SCREENS to remove an out of date med from my daughters chart, not including the alert popups she had to close along the way. And the screens weren’t even laid out in a way that made sense! They were nested under weird tab names, with small text links in bottom corners, it was horrific.
She apologized for the wait, and I followed up with, “That is some of the most poorly designed software I’ve ever seen. Totally not your fault at all, what a nightmare it must be having to deal with that all day.” She looked relieved and replied, “Yes. It’s not a new system, we’ve had it for 3 years. We’ve been begging for them to replace it, but it always gets bumped by other priorities. Onboarding for this is so time consuming, and even then, things like this require a cheat sheet when people are getting started.”
Doctors and nurses are brilliant. There is absolutely no reason a record keeping system should require clicking through 16 screens to update 1 line of text in a chart. It’s ridiculous, and a giant time suck, and destroys their productivity. Which brings me to my next point.
A few years ago, I was attending a conference session on the impact that improving UX can have on productivity. It was a great session—I felt really inspired after attending, as did many other attendees based on the chatter happening when we were leaving. I wound up in a crowded hallway stuck behind two designers who apparently worked together on my way out, and overheard a truly bizarre conversation.
Designer 1: That session was great, but it really doesn’t apply to our users. They’re experts in their fields, making it easier to use doesn’t apply.
Designer 2: Yeah, they’d just feel insulted, like we were dumbing down the product.
So here’s the thing. This is the kind of conversation that causes products like the one used in my daughter’s doctors office to spawn.
Obviously if your target audience is a serious bunch you don’t want your UI to look like it was built for a Kindergarten class. But improving the UX? Making it easier to use? No one in the universe is going to complain if something that used to take them 16 steps can now be done in 2.
And in addition to the decrease in stress and frustration that improvement would make for folks who are trapped in the product all day, it also vastly improves on-boarding. Making that product less of a dumpster fire would allow new hires to get up to speed and ready for action much more quickly.
Don’t be afraid to make your product easier to use. Improving UX isn’t “dumbing down” or “adding cartoon animal animations”, it’s making your software more efficient, impacting the lives of your users in a positive way.
And I don’t mean your users should be dancing in the streets holding up fan signs. If your users are able to use your software effectively everyday, it’s clean, fast, and has a crystal clear on-boarding experience, you’ve done your job well. If it impedes them from being able to get their jobs done because of horrific workflows for even the simplest tasks? Most likely user research, and usability testing wasn’t performed while the product was being made.
If you’re stepping into a company trying to overhaul and redesign a product that is a giant mess and you can’t figure out where to even begin, try running some Pareto Principle based user research. It can at least give you a jump off point for further research and testing.
And to those who are in the middle of redesigning nightmare legacy products like this one, my thoughts are with you! You’ve got this. Just keep your eye on the prize: Customers able to do their jobs with significantly less stress.