A Bad User Interface Is Like A Scary Receptionist

Picture yourself visiting a business office for the first time and then imagine a really grumpy receptionist behind the reception desk. Stunned (and slightly afraid) by what you see, you take a few hesitant steps towards them. The receptionist looks up at you in a surly manner, all with the air ‘so what do YOU want then?’ Would you want to continue, or would you turn tail and run for cover?

Next think about starting up a new application on your computer. You open the program for the first time, with the hope that you will be able to make sense of it all and be using it very quickly, only to find that a whole host of buttons and a navigation menu that leaves you gasping for breath. Like with that receptionist, do you continue or just turn the d*m thing off with a view to coming back to it when you have more time and ‘brain power’.

scary receptionist

That Cantankerous Receptionist

In the real ‘physical’ world of people, that awkward receptionist is a direct experience that many of us will have had, as in some cases, the receptionist takes their duty as a ‘gate keeper’ that bit too seriously..

Whereas in the digital world, both online and off, that receptionist takes comes in the form of a bad user interface (UI).

What they have in common is that they both just put you off just being there, both being uninviting, unhelpful and on top of that all, totally unexpected. The worst thing is that they also both leave a nasty taste in your mouth, and that can take some getting rid of as it ‘colours’ that all important ‘first impression’.

In some cases, both online and offline, in the digital or ‘real’ world, this initial unpleasantness can be so terrible that everything stops then and there, the visitor leaving the office or the user closing the program or clicking on the dreaded ‘back button’ in their browser, in some cases never to return.


That Fateful First Impression

Bad first impressions of any kind can be bad news, but more so in the ‘digital’ world than the real one it seems. One study in 2004 concluded that first impressions are 94% design-related, all of which means that design is even more important than many first thought.

Those over 50 will be able to tell you just how much has changed. Not so long ago, every product came with a detailed instruction manual, whilst the web was full of ‘colourful’ sites that made you chase the button you needed to click around the screen, just because it was innovative…

In those (what seems) far off days, consumers were more liable to let you off when you got things a bit wrong, but today, if they don’t ‘get’ your product right away, they are very likely to put the product down, or close the App or website for good.


A Grunt is not a Greeting

Just like when you visit an office, that first view of a new product – that fateful first impression, should be warm and inviting. The interface needs to be clear, gently easing the user into way it all works at reasonable, but not slow pace. The main thing here is to ensure that the user maintains a level of confidence, confidence that they are in the right place and are using the best tool for the job they have to do.

If the user interface is poor, it is just like getting a grunt instead of a cheerful “how can I help you?”

In all cases, it is imperative to remember that when presented with the unpleasant surprise of an unsuitable or confused User Interface (UI), the user is likely to stumble and thus the feelings of distaste and distrust will start to build.


The User Interface is a Window to Your Brand

The human mind is a complex thing and it is all too easy to send the wrong impression, just at the time you REALLY don’t want to. This is especially true for Apps and websites, and like it or not, your users will look at your interface as your brand. After all this is how they interact with you and your products / services, it being in fact their main ‘touch point’ with your business. Thus, if your user interface makes a bad impression on the user, this will lead to them associating your business with the same ‘bad odour’.

Shockingly, it seems research shows that 75% of users make judgments about how good a company’s is based on the design of the interface they deal with that company with (bad receptionists beware). Thus a poor UI is a red flag, a minus point to how good they think your business is.


Books and Covers

There is an old saying telling all not to judge a book by its cover (but instead by its contents). This has led some to believe that this means that you can get away with a poor UI, if the App etc works and does the job it was intended for.

This however is a falsehood, users consider the UI as not the cover, but how readable the content is likely to be, and thus if the UI is unclear (in essence ‘unreadable’) they will consider the whole thing ‘unreadable’ and thus put the ‘book’ down.


UI’s with Attitude Problems

Consider the process of having your car parked for you. If the person taking your keys looks shabby or does not offer you the normal pleasantry’s, then you are more likely to think your car is not going to get the care you desire, quite the opposite of when the operative was smart and pleasant. In essence in the former case the UI was poor…
Basically, poor UI’s inevitably lead to usability issues and the bad feelings these cause foster mistrust about your brand

Simply put, it all boils down to this: your user interface is the window to the ‘face’ of your company. Do not make yours miserable.



If you are worried that your UI may be making your users ‘sad’ please do give the web design team at Rouge a call, we’re here to make you (and your users) happy !!

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