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Relentlessly give the user what they want

I love my Peloton. Mostly it exists as a fancy piece of abstract art in my office, but I occasionally use it for workouts. When I overcome my lazy butt inertia, my experience is that the Peloton almost always wants to do an update.

Instead of giving me what I want (to work out), I have to wait several minutes for the software to update itself. The engineer in me appreciates their rapid release cycles, but they are just frustrating users and they probably don’t even realize it.

When I’m driving in my car and I have a flash of inspiration, I love that I can instruct Siri to “make a note” and she helpfully transcribes it for me. Then she cringingly repeats the whole thing back to me, including reading the first few words twice (presumably because they were input as the “subject” of the note).

All I wanted was for her to take a note, but a PM at Apple was (understandably) concerned that the transcription engine was so bad that the content should be verified. For a text message going to someone else this makes perfect sense, but I don’t need 100% accuracy when it’s just a note to myself. Waiting while she slowly and robotically repeats my words is just annoying and only serves to remind me how bad she is at transcribing.

There are several examples of these little annoyances in daily life. Unexamined user experience quirks like this build up minor stress and annoyance throughout the day.

If software designers would simply ask this one question relentlessly, all software would be seamless:

“Does the user want this?”

Everything the user experiences in the course of using your software should pass through this filter. Does the user, who just sat down to exercise, want to wait several minutes watching a progress bar? If not, then accomplish your engineering need another way!

Less user-focused engineers advocate for their own needs: “But we need to update so everyone is on the same experience!” Then design your platform to support overnight or post-workout updates. Like technical debt, minor user experience oversights like this build over time into a frustrated user.

If your company has user-facing software, use this question as a tool to refactor and refine your user experience. Be relentless about delivering a user experience where user needs are met at all times.

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