Monday, July 26, 2021

the ux of preconceptions

Besides Facebook (which, despite its many flaws, does the best job of keeping me in touch with people I know in real life but not well enough to be in touch by other means) my favorite form of social media is tumblr. 

When I mention that to people, the usual response I get is "is that still around?" which is kind of sad. Splitting the difference between (old) LiveJournal's long-form blogging and Instagram's reliance on images, it has a solid socially conscious community. (Like Twitter, it's really important who you follow, and unlike Twitter, you mostly just see the people you follow, in the order they post things.)

Anyway, one of my favorite tumblr sources is David J Prokopetz. Mostly I love his extensive riffs on tabletop games but also I thought this was a pretty good set of thoughts on UX in terms of user's preconceived mental models:

I guess a lot of my skepticism regarding user-focused design stems from working in tech support and witnessing first hand that user interfaces can only guide people to perform a task in a particular way if the method you have in mind is already very close to their prior assumptions about how the task ought to be performed.

If the way your UI thinks the task ought to be carried out and the way the user thinks the task ought to be carried out are very different, nine times out of ten what happens is that the user will Rube Goldberg together some bizarre workaround that’s ten times as complicated, takes ten times as long, and fights against the interface every step of the way, but preserves their prior assumptions, then become emotionally committed to their workaround and respond to any effort to demonstrate a more straightforward approach with extreme and disproportionate anger.

Critically, there doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid this scenario using pure design, because different people will have mutually exclusive prior assumptions about how the task ought to be performed, and you can’t possibly accommodate all of them. Conscientious design practices can supplement explaining shit in words, but they can’t replace it.

Good stuff!

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