Remove User Annoyances

John Siracusa has a Hypercritical post about Annoyance-Driven Development in which he discusses why users are still subjected to seemingly trivial annoyances, and points out that simply addressing those minor issues can reap benefits for your business.

This may sound comically selfish, but true innovation comes from embracing this sentiment, not fighting it. For companies looking to get the best bang for their buck out of technology, this is the way forward. Find out what’s annoying the people you want to sell to. Question the assumptions of your business. Give people what they want and they will beat a path to your door.

It is not selfish to want a company’s product to work the way you wish to use it. If John doesn’t want to watch the opening credits of a television series when he is watching back-to-back episodes on Netflix, then Netflix should attempt to address his use case. Technology is capable of solving this problem, and as John mentions later in his article, while it may be a pain to implement these types of features, the user experience would be greatly improved.

We nerds love technology for its own sake. Indeed, there’s always something to be gained by advancing the state of the art and providing more of a good thing. But the most profound leaps are often the result of applying technology to historically underserved areas. By all means, make everything better and faster, but also find the things that seem like minor annoyances, the things that everyone just accepts as necessary evils. Go after those things and you’ll really make people love you. Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative.

Every time I encounter a person who has changed the way they work or has altered their routine due to some technology that they use, I cringe because that is exactly what we should not be doing to users when we create a new tool. Imagine what would happen with hammers if they required you to reset the head every tenth swing. Some people might continue to use them and simply accept the flaw in the design. However, I can guarantee that far more people would stop using them or look for another solution, and professionals who swing a hammer thousands of times per day would give all of their business to the first company who could make a hammer that didn’t require a reset every tenth swing.

While my example is contrived, I believe it illustrates my point well. Why are people seemingly so accepting of technology’s shortcomings in user experience? Is it because we have been desensitized over the years to accept that cell phone interfaces will be needlessly convoluted and complex? Is it because we desire to watch television so much that we will pay for a subscription to “on-demand” services and then accept watching commercials and advertisements that cannot be skipped because a network dictated it in their terms with the service provider?

There are thousands of user annoyances with technology alone. What we need now are enterprising people who want to address users’ needs instead of adding unnecessary new features and spending millions on marketing those features to an indifferent audience. User experience needs to be given more attention.