User Experience is in the Details


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Just like a good design is all about the fine details, so too it is the same for the design of an over all user experience.   The critical elements usually come from those small details of the communications and interaction with the audience.

If you start to get these wrong, then people do start to question if you really are that genuine with your UX approach.

Generally people are forgiving, so you can make a few mistakes, just don’t make too many as one day you will wake up and your loyal audience will be gone.

Take the following two examples, both sites usually present reasonable customer experiences, sometimes the details are lacking.


Twitter Who to Follow example

A few weeks back Twitter started providing a list of recommended people you could follow. Not such a bad idea, you would think.  Only issue is the algorithm appears to be:

  • Selecting people who have a lot of followers in common with the people you’re following
  • People who are popular with retweets from your followers.
  • Sharing a large common pool of followers.

Now that doesn’t seem so bad, does it.  Well there is no consideration for:

  • People that had private accounts.
  • People with private accounts not following you.
  • People you have blocked.
  • Conversely people that have blocked you.
  • For lists that you maybe following.
  • Any filtering to remove tweets from various people.
  • What if people didn’t want to have suggestions thrust upon them.

This is a classic case of missing the finer details of the problem.  Just look at the title, suggesting – “who to follow”, like can’t make that decision myself.

It’s not just a simple issue, as is the case with most social media systems, the relationships between people are not just black and white.   It’s about people, communication, likes, dislikes, emotion; and we know these can be a little complex.

Common sense dictates, in this area it pays to focus on the details and map the paths people have already shown you, don’t ignore them and rush into coding a service, stop and think about it.

Book Depository

I love Book Depository; they have replaced Amazon as my main supplier of books.   The entire experience with Book Depository is a good one.  The service is fast, internationally focused; reasonably priced and they have a good range of books.

However they could do with tweaking of their email marketing, seems their attention to details is a little lacking.

A recent email newsletter they send out is promoting books for summer reading.  Yes very appropriate for the northern hemisphere.  But the kicker is I live in the southern hemisphere.

Book Depository Email Newsletter

Now Book Depository has all my details, including my street address. So they can workout that it’s now winter.

Not a big deal you may say.   Well I think it is, why should I put up with this sloppy marketing.

What would it have taken to segment the customer lists into the southern and northern hemispheres.   That way the marketing could have been customised.

The newsletter would have had a personal touch for me and me alone.  It would give the impression that Book Depository does care about it’s international customers.

Again the devil is in the details. The better customer experience is presented when you focus on those fine details.

I’m sure that I’m not alone here, I bet others have had similar experiences where the fine details of the customer experience has let them down.

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  1. Good read Gary. I agree with the southern/northern hemisphere thing. It’s a pet peeve. Very frustrating in the middle of winter getting reminded how sunny it is where “most” of the users for web apps live. Companies that do this send me a message that they are local rather than global thinkers every time I sign in.

  2. The ‘who to follow’ function does seem to have been introduced a bit prematurely. I keep getting suggestions to follow people I am already following too so that’s an immediate own goal. Good post.

  3. Funny Twitter has shut down that feature. I hated it at first sight. I have 2 twitter accounts, personal and business. Ironically where it was useless for personal it was actually really useful for business, I was able to grow “mutual” interest people to follow.

    I agree with you it is in the finer details but sometimes companies always feel they are helping when they are actually in the way, beauty about a web app is you can trial get community feedback and either keep/improve or remove

  4. @Ashul – well it’s still operational on my account. Maybe it’s a select rollout and removal.

    @Colin – Yes a few hours more “thinking” time really was required on this one.

  5. Update the feature seems to come on and off at random. Also realised client side JS and browser differences seem to be in play.. So my apologies Gary – Twitter has not dropped it perhaps my IE6 has 😉

  6. I might be wrong here, but maybe marketing northern hemisphere content to the southern hemisphere might be deliberate, under the (misguided?) assumption that you might want to buy a book as a gift for someone you know who lives on the other hemisphere.

    That said, I never buy gifts for people on the other side of the world so I would find that marketing annoying as well.

  7. @mike – well then they can get those details from my purchasing history and see that I don’t buy books as gifts. Generally that would be an edge case, not the best thing to considering as mainstream.

  8. @Gary – Agreed. Just seems like a gross oversight. Kind of like marketing refrigerators to Eskimos. You’d have to be insane to do it, so if anyone did you’d have to conclude:

    a) They are insane
    b) There is some reason to the insanity
    c) they dropped the UX ball

    We don’t really know the answer but an educated guess might suggest c to be correct in most of the cases.

    Just thinking out aloud…

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