Great Tech with Poor UX? That’s Only Sort-of Brilliant

Most designers would agree that in our day-to-day work of creating the next big thing for our business, we try to make all the right decisions. But, for one reason or many, we often fall short. On the way to making a brilliant idea, we get to almost brilliant. Almost.

The great deception is that so many companies get it right. We ask, “What can we do to reach the ranks of Tesla, Airbnb, or Amazon?” I might venture that this problem persists in their organizations, as well. Take my recent experience with Apple, for example.

How Apple Created an Almost Brilliant Experience

After purchasing the brand new MacBook Pro, I couldn’t wait to receive it. Over the past decade, I’d developed an expectation that every Apple purchase would be inspiring and innovative. I anticipated the delight of the unboxing, the clever packaging, the ease of setup, the new onboarding process…There is a Christmas-morning, childlike wonder that comes with getting the latest and greatest Apple product. At least, there used to be.

This time around, the details weren’t so satisfying:

  • There was no thoughtful introduction to the new Touch Bar technology. Why was I left to figure out how to use this new feature on my own? 
  • The onboarding process was full of preference questions such as, What language? What time zone? Do you want Siri? Since I’d already given Apple my account info, shouldn’t they know this? 
  • The “givens” that Apple had provided before (such as MagSafe adapters and simplified cables and connectors) were nowhere to be found. Why would they make it difficult to do the most essential functions?

I couldn’t help but wonder, did they really put their users first when iterating on this product? Did they put the needs of the business ahead of their consumers?

How You Can Prevent a Similar Disappointment for Your Users

Whether or not you are working at the scale of Apple, there are several steps you can take to avoid the frustration of almost perfect user experiences.

  • Deeply understand the user need(s) you’re solving.
    Walk a mile in the user’s shoes. Make it personal to you. Find the opportunities where design and business converge to create something meaningful for the user.
  • Get prototypes in front of users, early and often.
    Put your ideas on paper and show someone–anyone. Even people who don’t recognize what a design problem is will know when it doesn’t feel right.
  • Remove the users’ question marks.
    Will your most non-tech-savvy friend look at your solution and ask, “What is this?” or “How does this work?” If so, simplify it. Things can be complex without being complicated.

None of this is groundbreaking or innovative, but it does provide a good foundation for design. Instead of undercutting our experiences by forgetting to address the details, let’s aim to be brilliant by doing the heavy lifting for our users.