Self Checkout

Some people might describe me as a complainer. I spot problems. I’m a problem spotter. I notice when things are being done badly and, well, it bothers me. I also love solutions! Thinking up suggestions for how a system could be improved comes naturally and I love it when a system already works better than I expected.

Everyone is like this to some extent. We all hate those automated check out machines, for example. Some people miss the human interaction but, even aside from that, the machines themselves are annoying to use. We know this, it’s a meme, it’s standard.

I’m not sure though, that it’s standard to keep thinking about it more than 10 minutes after you leave the shop. I… sort of do. Maybe you do too. See, the thing is – those machines are just, straight up, badly designed!

If these kind of problems and perhaps even solutions to those problems are the kind of thing that occupy your mind a lot (as they do mine!) then perhaps UX design is for you.

That’s what I’m hoping anyway. My annoyance with things like self checkouts and how the hell you quit skype extends beyond not enjoying my own experience of using them.

When I spot a bad system I find myself extrapolating out the repercussions. Perhaps there’s a reason I’m unaware of for the system working in such an annoying way. It’s kind of fascinating to try and backwards engineer the seemingly crappy design. Sometimes the reason is clear – the system is trying to make the user do something they might not want to, like in a lightbox pop up that asks you to sign up for a newsletter. Sometimes it’s mind boggling, like the self checkout machine that goes from right to left.

I’m frustrated with the lack of consideration for the user in some of the web design and development jobs I’ve worked in. Obviously I’ll name no names or specifics but I will say I have literally been laughed at in a meeting when I asked, “do we actually know if the users want any of this…?” It’s not silly or laughable to ask that question – it should be central to everything that we as web builders do!

I want to make the web a better place, basically. I’m thrilled to be starting a UX Design course at General Assembly this weekend, and I’ll be blogging my progress as I go. Wish me luck!