It happens quite often that I’m sitting in a meeting with one of our customers and they ask me things like “What’s the optimal number of clicks for a user?” (mostly they mean even “in general” not for a specific task…) or “What’s the standard procedure/best practice for this or that?”…
Well, UX has come a long way and indeed there are some processes an UX professionals will follow more or less. But the base of good UX work is a completely flexible approach, which focuses on the particular context. Of course I can tell the customer of some similar cases as a presumption or “Best Practice”, because most of them won’t be satisfied with a “First I have to know he context and circumstances, before I can give you a proper solution”.
There are two solutions to that problem:
- Learn the art of saying something without telling anything. That kind of confident speech after which all participants are convinced all their questions are answered, but actually you didn’t say anything in particular. I must admit, I’m pretty bad at that and need more training 😉 Good thing I have some awesome colleagues who have mastered this art…
- Be honest and try to explain, that there are no standard processes or “One fits all” solutions. Most of the times they are happy with that answer, as long as it is expressed as a specially modified solution to match only their needs and it won’t take to long to get all the context informations.
I understand that most customers want instant answers, time is money after all (just an idea: maybe they could let us do our work instead of wasting time in endless meetings…). But what good is a standard process, if we are able to work in such flexibility that we can find our very own toolkit to solve specific business and user problems in targeted ways—letting us use the right tool for the right job. During my training for the certification of usability engineering, all I’ve learned was not far from a formalized process. Of course it has to be, ISO & Co. wouldn’t be able to approve processes and results if there are no standards. But even there it was taught, that there is no “one process to rule them all”. These methods were rather guidelines or an overall tactics guide for all UX professionals to develop their own tactics and approaches. Like a set of buttons and switches on a mixer, and every UX professional has their own way to play the music.
Ok, so there are no standard processes, but aren’t there some basic rules, like how many clicks are optimal? Simple answer: No. Of course, let’s apply some common sense here. 20 clicks for a simple web app login are too much, unless you need a bunch of security checks or the like. And there we have the problem: you always have to see the context.
Less clicks are always better? Wrong. Need an example? In german ICE trains toilets have touch sensors for flush. Or rather they have now. Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) tried to make the process of going to the bathroom simpler by reducing user actions (=clicks), the idea was that the toilet will flush, when the user opens the door to leave. Do you see where this is going? Nobody wants to leave the bathroom without flushing. It’s a simple user need for control. They fixed it and now users are able to flush before they open the door, thank god.
But what about: the faster the user can perform a task the better? Is faster always better? Ask your context, ask your users. Is it better to have a fast completion of an online order process? It would probably lead to “Whoops, have I really ordered those 9 50” TVs?!”… You get the idea.
You see, there is no “One fits all” in UX. If we understand that, it’s the first step to educate our customers and coworkers to a similar way of thinking.