The above title is what my 10 year old son yelled out of frustration as he watched his hamburger smothered in ketchup fall out of his hands, quickly landing on EVERYTHING. His blaming the burger, but not the hands that held it, made me chuckle. Obviously if the burger was designed differently this would not have happened, right? Or would he have dropped any kind of sandwich at that exact moment because his hands were not holding it correctly? A usability or user issue?

I describe this incident as a very loose parallel to UX issues that we often see during usability testing. How do we know if a usability issue is truly the fault of the interface? The debate has gone on for years, where many would argue that there is no such thing as “user error” –  that it’s always an issue with the product; while some may claim that no interface/design will have a 100% success rate for users.

  • Your participant didn’t see the search bar. Was it because it wasn’t where they expected it to be or was it because it truly was not in a clear or obvious place?
  • A participant doesn’t go to the “correct” link during a task. Did they not understand where to go because the task was not phrased in a way they would have expected, or is the interface really preventing completion?
  • The user didn’t notice the ad you wanted them to see. Was it because it was not prominent enough or did the messaging not resonate or make sense to them?

There are many other examples; those are just a few of the more common ones.

Regardless of what the task and results are – it is important to note during testing that people tend to blame themselves even when it’s not their fault, so be mindful and patient.

Generally, things will resolve to whether or not the interface works within standard expectations. It’s our role as experts to know what those standards are and how to make sure they constantly evolve while technology expands, without reinventing what already works.

With any UI design, if you deviate too far outside of what users generally expect, you run the risk of them missing features or not knowing how it would work. However, if we design for every person’s expectations could there be one perfect interface? Or, more importantly…one perfect spill-proof sandwich?

Sara Mastro

About Sara Mastro

Sara is responsible for leading our Digital Agency teams that create intuitive user experiences for our clients’ websites and applications. Her extensive background in design and research is the basis for our methodology in creating smart user experiences that win the loyalty of their users. Sara began her career at…
Posted in design, user research, uxdesign.

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