The most common mistakes when designing digital products

It is probably an example of ‘professional deformation’ but every time I interact with a website, a mobile app or a service I cannot help but to put them under the microscope.

I applaud when I have had a good experience and I even wish I could commend the people that work in the business or customer experience areas on the good idea they had or the usefulness of what they did.

Likewise, I would love to be able to talk to them when I see that they could improve small things to bring about significant changes without having to make big investments (as they are surely doing).

Since it is impossible to reach all those people individually, I would like, by means of this post, to give them some examples – should some of them end up reading them – and thus be able to help them.

Careless design

A hospital group puts a very complete customer area at its patient’s disposal. I can make appointments and change them, I am told when I need to stop by to pick up test results, I can see diagnosis reports or tests, I can request certificates of attendance… I cannot think of much else I could ever need. But… the design is awful! It looks like an application straight out of the very beginning of the Internet.

It is true that having a ‘careless design’ is sometimes brandished as an excuse to make users believe they will get lower prices, but this is not so. This is a clear proof that the website was designed a while back, and even though the tool has evolved, the design is still rooted in the past.

With a little design effort (not even UX) they could have that wow! effect on customers that is so sought after, and their private area would have a brand image worthy of a hospital group.

Moreover, to prevent this from ever happening again, I would advise them not only to develop according to agile methods but also to include design in these work cycles.

Thus, the image of the digital product will not be defined in the early phases of the construction of the product and then completely forgotten during the development and subsequent maintenance stages.

Now they will be able to work on the product image on a cycle-to-cycle basis, throughout the entire lifecycle of the product, to update and refine it as needed. The digital product will thus be always up to date as regards functionality and look.

A pretty product, but it does not work

I am sure you all could provide a lot of examples of this. I am also sure that one of them is an airline’s website where it takes you three or four tries to purchase a ticket.

Or some e-commerce site which, as soon as it posts special discounts or has a sale, cannot handle the traffic and buying anything is impossible.

Companies suffering this problem understand the importance of digital channels because their website (or mobile app) is their main sales channel. Once they saw the importance of digital channels, they focused on their user experience and created an attractive design, but they forgot about technology and/or are based on obsolete systems.

The first thing these companies should do is to automate quality and eliminate the risk in every release by monitoring the most critical functionalities by means of a battery of automatic tests.

In addition, they need to invest in updating their back-ends and hosting to have high-availability environments. Thus, they will be able to increase their turnover and even to optimize their costs. Investing in technology is necessary to be competitive on the Internet.

The website and the app look like they belong to different companies

An insurance company has a website and an app where you can do more or less the same things.

However, the only thing they have in common is the company logo. They look like they belong to different companies!

And although mobile adaptation is understandable, or they might have been created at different points in time, changing the browsing method, the interaction elements and so on just confuses and frustrates users, who will waste time trying to find the place where and the manner in which they need to do what they came to do in the first place.

Thus, in this case, before keeping on creating products separately, it is worth stopping to merge the usability and the design of the different channels, coming up with a complete service design and creating an omnichannel experience that gives a consistent brand image and unifies communication and interaction with users.

Too far from users

A retailer, focusing on innovation and differentiation, creates services and new ways to buy that are really useful and different from those of its competitors. Yet customers are not aware of them, so hardly anybody uses them.

Paying attention to the product is as important as coming up with the right launch and operation strategy. Running ad campaigns, communicating with users and encouraging the use of the new services are all important for a product to be successful.

Conclusion

Paying attention to user experience and supporting it with a technology that makes it possible (scalable, resilient, maintainable), and devising a good communication strategy are essential for a digital product to be successful.

There are many situations in which a company might forget about any of these things, which might prevent it from providing a good service to its customers.
However, unless the situation is truly dire, there are always small things we can do to substantially improve our product without having to redo it all over again.

Ana María Gómez is a Telecommunication Engineer with extensive experience in the development of user applications. She started out in research projects which allowed her to obtain knowledge of different fields and programming languages. She works on frameworks such as Struts and Spring, and is part of the Paradigma Digital team. She has a keen interest in technology and is continually finding ways to improve and make things go well.

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