When was the last time you used the web?

As web developers, so much of our industry is focused inwards. Every day I read articles about code, tools, and frameworks, but almost nothing about how users are actually interacting with the products we build. Or how they would like to interact with what we build for that matter.

This bothers me because as a web developer, I know that I am far removed from the experiences of those who use the web and are not web developers. Most of the time I only use the web to build for the web. In reality I rarely ever use the web for anything else, and that makes me feel very dissociated from those who I am supposed to be building for.

Is there something that we need to change? Does anyone else feel that the industry might be a little too self centered at times?


This kind of a loaded topic here…

I guess this is why companies try to create personas, to predict how people will use the web. Because even if you used it, and that would certainly help you to remember why you do things on a certain way, you have nothing to do with the old man that has never used it before, or with the teenager that just got his first computer.

You know what goes behind and you are a experienced web user.

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Well, and as web developers, when we do use the web, we’re also over-sensitive to certain things. When I’m on a site via my mobile and it’s sort of responsive but they didn’t-quite-get-it-right I’ll rant to my fiance and she’ll laugh and be amused at the rhetoric, but is that a normal user response? Probably not. They’re probably more worried about why X isn’t on the page at all, or why they can’t find a menu.

Sidebar example:
My fiance lives in the same home as me, a web developer, and she was trying to navigate a site on her phone (we don’t have Internet at home temporarily due to the recent move so we’ve been using only mobiles) and she couldn’t find the page she needed on the website - because she didn’t know that the Hamburger Menu was a menu, reminding me of ( UX Challenge: Re-thinking the Hamburger Icon ). She’s an extremely intelligent person who knows things about upper level mathematics that leave me extremely confused - but some things on the Internet are simply not intuitive enough for users to follow without being shown at least once. That’s a UX problem that I don’t know how to solve.

Anyway. This is why we have UX as a sort of separate field, isn’t it? So that developers either learn about, and consider UX when developing, or work with UX Designers who do. The question as always is whether our system for one or both of those is working or not, probably.

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i use the web a reasonable amount and when i come across something that has worked well for me when i use it, i often incorporate it or a similar idea into my own work. We are a small charity so we can’t spend loads on R+D so i look at what the big successful people are doing as they have spent a lot of money getting there.

Of course that is not always the best as for example if i designed my site to look like facebook it would probably fail pretty quick as facebook is pretty ugly and not the most user friendly site i’ve ever come across, the weight of users makes facebook succeed to my mind, over what it actually looks like. And perhaps the design elements aren’t the most important factor to a site like facebook.

I’ve recently started using ‘peek’ user testing which uses real users to test your site and you can hear their answers whilst you watch their mouse on the page. Can be useful to see what people actually do rather than what you think or hope they do.

I use the web for banking, looking stuff up, getting directions.

But no, I don’t think I do it the way a non-developer does. For that matter, I think most “average” users are more technical in their use than I am-- I learned one way to do it a long time ago, and never needed to upgrade. Non-technical users seem to always be learning how to do things a new way.

For example, I don’t think I could figure out how to use a web-ennabled mobile phone. I’ve never used one, and when handed one I seem to manage to make it do things that were not intended, until I give it back to let the owner “fix” it.

lol Mallory

Yes, the problems are never “I don’t get it”,but always “you don’t get it”

But how to convey?

Building things following some of those principles Tog lists:

  • if it’s undo-able, make it obviously undo-able. People feel safer trying something on an unfamiliar interface if they don’t have to worry that it’ll do something permanent.

  • let people go back to wherever they were before they got here, and make it obvious

  • if an action is very much not undo-able, make it real clear and obvious (submit on a form sends data to a DB for example) and if it’s “weird”, friendly explanation text is nice.

  • Tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing: when we asked for people’s telephone numbers on a form, we told them why (how it mattered to their insurance policies, and that they could mention some other method in the comments textarea instead)

  • test all your stuff on 5 year olds. Then test them on non-technical old people. Then test on some immigrant neighbours. If they all grok it, you rock.

Those bits I know at least, and those sorts of things all help me when I’m in some unfamiliar area. Dropbox I recall (the website) had a lot of “oh, you’re new here? Well this is this and that is that” stuff that helped me just Do Stuff right away without much fear.


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