Employees in safety-conscious work environments don’t wait until someone gets hurt before they fill out a report and figure out what went wrong. They also do so for near misses and close calls. Maybe no one was next to the shelf that fell over, but someone could have been. It wouldn’t make sense to ignore an obvious hazard just because no one was injured.

We can apply a similar principle to application user experience. How? By documenting any momentary confusion or frustration we experience when interacting with our own application. Anyone who sits near me has heard me some point expressing frustration that its unclear how to use some feature of one of our websites, punctuating my rant with the words, “…and I work here!” If it takes me five seconds to figure it out, how long will it take a user who has never seen it before? If it takes me a minute or I need to ask someone else then clearly there’s room for improvement.

What I propose is creating a UX near miss list. My company uses Yammer so I’ve created a Yammer group, but it could just as easily be SharePoint or some other medium. What matters is

  • It’s easy to post a picture or two with text
  • Anyone on my team can post to it and see others’ posts
  • It’s internal - we don’t want to air dirty laundry.

Then take a moment to document any moment of interaction with your website or application where you don’t understand a message or aren’t sure what to do next. For bonus points, suggest a remedy.

Here’s an example, something old that’s already been fixed:

I spent a few seconds trying to to figure out how to correct