Guest contributor, Bola Rotibi from analyst firm Creative Intellect Consulting and Adrian Bridgewater
Programming with an appreciation for visceral and emotional human reactions to an application along with the context of usage and interaction is the only way to address practical UX goals competently
A cautionary tale of UX gone wrong
Only recently I was shocked to have the kind of user experience with an application that I thought was impossible within a profession at this stage of maturity. It was even more surprising given the pressures for meeting user expectation and the opportunities for a basic level of testing to be executed prior to release. UX clearly was not on the agenda of the development team other than in delivering a visually appealing app and a quick release on Apple’s iTunes App Store. The app in question was already a very successful mathematics training web application for school children with global support from schooling bodies and parents alike.
I was astonished that any development organization would have released an app which was visually appealing, but failed to deliver even the most basic functionality of the existing web application. So many things had clearly broken down in the development process – testing was an obvious casualty. Emphasis was wrongly placed on releasing the app quickly onto the App Store, bringing into sharp focus the balance that must be achieved between “time to market” and UX requirements.
The experience of the application was unpleasant for my daughter, myself and the many other users who then made the effort to express their extreme dissatisfaction in negative reviews and low scores that were displayed alongside the application in the store. A number of things came to mind after reading the reviews and experiencing the application. The first was a lessening of our attraction to the web application. We later searched for a math application that provided both a good online and iPad App experience to allow my daughter flexibility of use. The second was the desire to write a negative review and to make the effort to warn off others, all of which was made easy for me thanks to social applications and artifacts so readily available.
Undoubtedly, the development team in question will fix many of the issues with the App Store application. They may even recover given the strong functionality provided by the web application version. But considerable damage has been done and an opportunity lost – all of which was unnecessary and completely avoidable.
The moral of this tale is that UX is a multifaceted consideration that must be taken into account for all the deployment targets of an application. There must be considerations for data integration, visualization and navigation according to the different devices and use cases in conjunction with the graphical experience. Crucially, UX requires the support of strong development and delivery processes. It will mean evolution of the development team to include roles that understand user personas and usage scenarios. It may also require support of more Agile processes that endorse greater collaboration with user clients, automated and test driven development.