Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hiding or framing your flaws

I was wondering about an interesting tradeoff that seems to come up a lot in UX design, at least if you are doing it right.  No matter how conscientious we are, there are always going to be some flaws in the design.  They can emerge because we had to make a tradeoff to prioritize one feature over another or it could be that our resources just don’t allow us to perfect everything.  But whatever the cause, we often have to live with flaws in a design.

So here is the tradeoff.  There are two strategies to deal with the flaw when it comes to communicating it to users.  We can explicitly call it to the user’s attention and take this opportunity to frame it in the most positive (or the least negative) way.  This can minimize the perceived severity of the flaw, show the user that we take responsibility for it, and explain why it exists.

On the other hand, we can keep mum, hope they don’t see it, or at least don’t see it in full.  This can minimize the likelihood it is noticed, and if it is noticed perhaps not all of it.

There are some cases where the answer is clear.  If the flaw is so obvious that users can’t miss it, the second strategy won’t work so we may as well go with the first one.  And if the flaw is so obscure that most users will definitely miss it, the second one seems like a reasonable choice.  But I don’t think either of these extremes is very common.  Most design contexts will fall somewhere in the middle and so we have to make a hard decision.

Which way do you usually go?  Why?  I am really interested in hearing some justifications for one strategy over the other.  They both seem to have merit.