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Dan Iaboni

Dan Iaboni

Ph.D - Principal Experience Architect

Is Your Interaction Full of DUST?

When you are continuously evaluating your product it is easy to keep your product feeling fresh. However, if you are not able to refresh your design on a yearly basis, you need to be more strategic about when to update the design.  Which raises the question;  How do you know when it is time to tackle a redesign?

To determine when an existing website needs a content overhaul is to look for ROT. For those that are unfamiliar, ROT is content that is Redundant, Orphaned, or Trivial. Similarly, you should also be reviewing your existing interaction designs for signs of DUST; Disorder, Uselessness, Slow, and Tiring.

Disorder

You probably released version 1.0 of the system and everyone loved it, but feedback from users is that it would better if you just added that one extra feature.

And so it goes, new features get added in, and while some work well with the existing design, others are being shoved into wherever they can fit.

Over time, it might be one year, it may be several, and the end result is a Dr. Frankenstein’s approach to design. You are probably spending more time just trying to keep everything working and less time on making it better.

A key sign of disorder in a system is when the navigation structures start to fail or don’t make sense.

Microsoft faced a similar issue with the design of the Office Suite. The feature set was growing larger and larger, but users couldn’t find them to use.

Disorder will sometimes be a by-product of another issue which is uselessness.

Useless

An interaction is full of uselessness when features have been added that are not essential or required as part of key user behaviours.

For example, a customer thought it would be nice to have a reporting function, but in reality they never actually need to use the report to accomplish their task.

Adding unnecessary features into a system adds clutter and confusion. Use the 80/20 rule and identify the 20% of the functionality that is used by 80% of your users.  If possible, use analytics to identify functionality that is rarely used and not necessary for the key usage scenarios, and then remove. By streamlining the design you can reduce the disorder but also improve the user and system performance.

Slow

With new technology improvements come new opportunities to optimize the system performance which may impact the user interaction.

One second delays in system response can have the following effect (Aberdeen Group Report, 2008):

  • 11% fewer page views
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
  • 7% loss in conversions

Determine the source or sources of any performance issues, whether it is due to the design or the coding and address them, otherwise your users will get frustrated and give up.

Tiring

Does your design allow users to complete the tasks in the most efficient manner possible?  If not, then your interaction is tiring.

Your website may work well on a desktop but when viewed from a mobile device users need to spend time zooming in and out, or a lot of time scrolling just to get to the desired information. Your design may be tiring due to out-of-date design patterns or may be due to lack of support for expert users. The design patterns used in desktop environments are well known and have been tested over decades of use.  In mobile environments new design patterns are being discovered, and existing ones continue to improve, so a newer, more user friendly pattern can help with refreshing the design.

When the system is first designed, you may have included a great deal of support to guide users as they explore and learn. Over time users become more proficient with the summary.

Summary

DUST is an approach to easily remember to evaluate your system for disordered, useless, slow, or tiring interactions to determine if a redesign is necessary.

I wish I could tell you a specific, numerical way of measuring or approximating DUST in your design.  What I can tell you is that you need to be constantly evaluating, through user analytics and evaluation testing, when the amount of DUST has crossed an acceptable level and justifies the redesign efforts.

Dan Iaboni

Dan Iaboni

Ph.D - Principal Experience Architect

Dan firmly believes that technology must be created with the user in mind. Never shy to critique a bad design, Dan uses the Akendi blog to shine a spotlight on usability mistakes…and their solutions. Leveraging his background in engineering, computer science, psychology, and anthropology, Dan offers a unique perspective on the latest UX trends and techniques.


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About Akendi

Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.