I like to absorb everything I can about the UX process, the newest techniques, the latest opinion of my favorite UX professionals. For awhile now, I keep seeing things like this along my educational journey:
Then one day I went to an interview for an internship at a shiny new startup that was getting lots of attention and funding. The startup had a unique online app that helped people give instructions on how to do things. I studied the process, the inner workings, what the site users created with it, and after awhile, I got an idea of how to use it.
The president of the company was the person interviewing me and after listening to him proudly tell me about the relaxed flip flop wearing culture and the path that led to the development of the app, where they are, what was in the pipeline, etc.. I asked him,
“Why do you not have a video on your homepage demonstrating how to use the app?”
This question immediately irritated my interviewer and he blurted out at me,
“Why does everyone keep asking me that! The app is simple to use, it shouldn’t need a video!”
He then made the “mind blown” sound effect and gesture with his hands. The first thought I had to that reaction was, “I am so not getting this internship.” The second thought I had was he is so caught up in the notion that a UI should not have to be explained that he did not see the data that was staring him in the face. His app that helps give directions, needed directions. I never thought his online app was a bad one. I thought it was very clever and useful. It’s why I wanted the internship there, but it still needed some explaining on how to use it.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the gist of the idea. Think the UI through, don’t make it over complicated. At the same time, I also think of Steve Krug who reminds me to not make people think. And yes, a well thought out UI doesn’t make people think, but sometimes, people don’t just want to not think, they want you to simply tell them what to do. Why? Because people are afraid of being wrong. Just watch the answers Kathryn Schulz, who has made a career out of people’s fear of being wrong, was given when she asks “How does it feel to be wrong?”:
People don’t want the risk of embarrassment, or to feel stupid. Even more than that, they want to feel like an expert using a product before they use the product. It’s secure, it’s confident boosting, it just plain old feels good. I think sometimes people want to be shown the way. It doesn’t make bad UI. It doesn’t mean the app isn’t well thought out. It means we are giving people what they want. They want to be shown what to do so they feel like an expert at it when they do it. I don’t think I am the first person to see this either. I think Apple knows this very well. Are Apple products intuitive to use? Sure they are, but the commercials we watch over and over showing us how to use them sure does help a lot:
I don't own a MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, but if I ever get one I will already know how to use it because I watched it on TV a hundred times already.
So next time you see one of those clever quotes telling you about how you shouldn’t have to explain the UI to your users, take it for what it’s worth and then be sure to ask yourself the question we should always be asking as UX professionals, “What does the user want?”