The Wow! or How You Know You’ve Delighted the User

On a recent trip, I was waiting for the hotel shuttle outside and a man pulled up in a red convertible Lamborghini. The only reason I know its was a Lamborghini is because I read it in large letters splayed across the back quarter panel. I hadn’t even noticed it until a toddler standing with his family nearby pointed and started saying “Wow!” repeatedly. He said it with a breathy, reverend tone. He was clearly delighted.

When I tell people, outside the office, that I design software apps using user-centered design principles, their eyes glaze over…until they realize what it means to them. They get excited when they realize that someone is actively trying to make software easier for them to use.

Remember, sexy is in the eye of the beholder—even in apps. The sexy or glamorous apps get a lot of attention. However, I am often moved by the users of more mundane applications. They have so much need for UX and usability work on the apps they use for work but rarely are they the decision makers on which apps they can use.

After my research with the users during the discovery phase of a project, I usually find that a minor tweak to a work flow here, a UI layout change there, then sprinkle in some taxonomy fixes and it would improve the users’ productivity plus reduce their frustration ten fold. But, no one has ever asked them or listened. By the time I come on the scene, they have all this pent-up need and they’re so grateful to be heard.

There are a couple of apps that I would have recommended we take out back, shoot them and start over. That’s never in the budget though. Sigh.

For the past two years, I worked on cybersecurity risk apps for a major financial institution. I basically designed apps that sliced and diced and aggregated big data into consumable pieces based on the end-users’ needs (and that’s all I can say about that). I know—not really sexy to you and me. But you know what? When I got it right, the end-user said “Wow!” in a breathy, reverend tone and that’s all I needed to hear. User delighted? Check!

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