…but we always did it that way

…but we always did it that way


Sometimes it happens: you have to come up with an interaction concept and a part of it rises a question: do it a classical way or try something new. Are there certain processes or tasks that are so established that it is better to keep it that way?

An example: a login screen contains of minimum of 2 input fields, user name and password, there’s a OK-button and a “help, I forgot my password”-thing. Sometimes there are additional functionalities, like a register-link, if you have no account yet. And sometimes some more tweaks here and there. Many studies show how to do login-screens right or wrong. But the basics are often the same, and that’s the way we know it: 2 inputs and an ok button.

Does the fact that many many people are used to this way of login mean that when in doubt, design this step that way? Would it be a showstopper when you try a different approach? Or to think the other way round, is this habit an argument against new and different approaches when designing a “for everyone”-software?
Those topic can sometimes lead to heated discussions between designers. And yeah, if you are more on the beginner side it is not easy to answer that without falling into the assumption-trap. For myself I try to force myself to go back to the most important basic to come to a good approach for that issue: There is no one and only answer! Always see the context, the targeted users, their task, their situation.

  1. Keep in mind, what’s your target audience? Do you have internet-savvy users who love new fancy things? Or do you have users who use an pc once a week and need everything as simple as possible?
  2. What’s the context? What’s the task that has to be fulfilled? Do they login once and then never again? Or do they have to logout after every session and then login when they start a new one?
  3. Test, test, test. In every iteration cycle.

As I said in an earlier article, you are not the user. And assuming if they are going to like something or not is often impossible. Try it. Test it in an early state. Give some real users a paper prototype in the beginning. 5 users try the usual way, 5 try the new approach. It will give you an indication, if you are on a completely wrong track.

So personally I hate to be asked questions like “What do you think, shall we do it that way or that?” without knowing the project, the context and the users. But I do understand that it’s not satisfying if there’s no answer but “first tell me the context, then we have to test it”. Most of the time I try to trust my gut feeling. It got me the best results so far, even if I haven’t had an explanation all the time… Do you get a better feeling for the right way with more work experience? An more important, can you explain why it is the right way? I really hope so…

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