At one point or another, we've all been frustrated by poor UX. This is especially true in enterprise software, where applications are expected to be clunky. Nobody enjoys poor UX; it wastes time, hinders productivity, and most importantly, stands in the way of getting your job done. So, why does poor UX continue to make its way into the workplace? The unfortunate answer is that enterprise software is typically designed to fit sales or technical requirements rather than the end user needs.
Four Apps That Failed
But, in recent years, business has evolved to become more digital than ever. For example, while there is no Census Bureau or government-produced data that provides accurate granularity on the ubiquity of remote work, Global Workplace Analytics’ research found that 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial remote work and approximately 20-25% of the workforce is remote at some frequency. Studies have also repeatedly shown that most employees are not at their desk 50-60% of the time during work hours, which means employees are mobile more frequently than not. With so much riding on digital experiences, it's safe to say that the workplace deserves better UX.
If you are preparing to launch or modernize an enterprise application, here are three lessons you can learn from apps that failed due to poor UX:
Google Wave was one of the most hyped but least understood services Google has ever launched. Wave allowed collaborators to build documents, which Google called “waves”, from conversations. Multiple people could simultaneously edit and chat inside waves. They could also add images, links, videos, and polls to waves. Google described Wave as “what e-mail would look like if it were invented today,” like a mashup of features found in e-mail, instant messaging, wikis, and online forums; but it wasn’t a direct replacement for any of those tools.
What Went Wrong?
The interface suffocated itself with features. The tool itself was over-designed, but it underperformed. Wave was filled with functionality that Google assumed people wanted, but the functionality only went halfway and did not serve as a replacement for existing collaboration tools. It was a complex product that required an investment of a user’s time just to understand how it worked. Lastly, Google Wave was an invite-only service. This created unnecessary friction for those who wanted to try it. Google Wave only lasted 15 months.
MySpace was once a hub of social activity and was considered the number one online social network in the world. The network rapidly declined, however, when Facebook began to dominate in 2008. What led MySpace's user base to flock to Facebook so quickly? The answer is simple. The UX on Facebook takes seconds to master and constantly adapts around a user’s network of friends and interests whereas a MySpace user was forced to hunt and peck for information across a number of screens, which led to a frustrating user experience. From a user's perspective, the cost to switch was relatively low, and the reward (a positive user experience) was perceived as substantial.
What Went Wrong?
MySpace broke the golden rule of UX: keep it simple. Straightforward tasks, such as sending a message to a friend, were difficult to complete on MySpace because each user's profile lacked consistency. While personalization is usually considered an attractive feature on social media MySpace took it too far. As a result, it made the site difficult to use. The hyper-personalization and the lack of consistency also contributed to performance issues. Furthermore, the site frequently crashed due to incompatible customizations across browsers and operating systems.
Foursquare was once a gamified mobile app. It allowed you to “check in” to places, such as restaurants, movie theaters, or sporting events, to let your friends know where you were. Secondarily, it was used for collecting points, badges, and sometimes coupons at certain establishments. It was later redesigned to become a location recommendation tool, similar to Yelp.
Foursquare made a bold attempt to re-brand itself under a new name, Swarm. Swarm was rolled out quickly, without proper usability testing, and it removed one of the core features of Foursquare: the ability to claim “mayorship” to a place where you had the highest number of check-ins. The new version of the app stripped out almost all of the fun and playfulness of the original Foursquare, which led to a sharp decline in the app's usage. Whether or not Foursquare intended to design a fun and playful tool, its user base used it primarily for fun and playful activities … a perfect example of why UX is just as much about functionality as it is about aesthetics and performance.
Launching an app? Mobile gaming app or an enterprise application? Make sure and look back on what past companies have done, and avoid the mistakes they made. Prioritize all aspects of the user experience and you've already taken a step in the right direction.
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