Unpredictable results

Written on 12 September 2012 by Alastair Roberts

Sometimes if your design process isn’t properly nose to tail you can end up with some fairly unfriendly user experiences, even if no particular part of the design is fundamentally broken. Little errors accumulate which seem insignificant on their own, but when acting together produce unpredictable results.

I was recently looking for a new phone – Apple’s recent courtroom activity having convinced me that the Samsung Galaxy SIII must be a good bet – and was getting ready to purchase it from a well know network which showed me the following screen :-


Seems OK, but just one little mouse movement later …


… and this happened :


I was totally confused and it took me a few moments to work out what was happening. Basically three things had come together to cause the confusion, none of which were in themselves awful but which together produced a very confusing experience

  1. The on screen navigation is a little unusual. It’s in a slightly odd place and the size, colour, shape and number of the menu elements say ‘buttons’ or ‘tabs’ much more than they say ‘menu items’
  2.  The ‘menu items’ open a supernav which looks more like page content than a navigation on first glance
  3. The supernav is as wide as the page and the background colour is virtually indistinguishable from the page underneath.

All of that adds up to a user who is not expecting a navigation menu when hovering over the Discover, Store or Support items. When it appeared it wasn’t identifiable as such, the end result being that I thought I’d been sent somewhere weird in the middle of purchasing my new phone without even clicking on anything, when in fact all I was looking at was a menu hover state.

These issues can be very hard to spot in the wireframe or clickable prototype stage – in design and in isolation everything looks great, but by the time the navigation has gone into the supernav, the visual design has been applied and the overlay sits on top of an unpredictable content page there’s a problem.

The good news is that there is a method for correcting this sort of fault … User Testing anyone?


About the Author

Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts

Principal User Experience Designer

Alastair is a principal UX designer with 20 years experience in Healthcare, Media, Transport and Financial Services. His recent projects have been in the areas of Corporate Banking, Insurance Brokerage & Investment Banking with a special focus on Foreign Exchange. His approach to design is to always try and be a champion for the user in the design process and make sure that that voice continues to be heard loud and clear above the hubbub and distraction of the corporate development environment.

Linkedin Profile

More from the blog