Last updated: 21st April 2023
Reading time: About 4 minutes
When it comes to user experience, we all strive for the best possible outcome. However, sometimes a bad user experience can actually bring some unexpected benefits. In this post, I'll explain nine such benefits of a bad user experience.
When users have a bad experience, they are more likely to leave voluntary feedback (the kind that was not ‘nudged’ for in the form of a pop-up, follow-up email or other interruption messaging). This feedback can actually be totally invaluable in improving the product or service. Bringing up user pain-points that you just didn’t know existed. Common and related themes can help you identify problem areas that need to be prioritised and fixed to make your product or service more user-friendly.
The key here, is to make it incredibly easy for the users to leave feedback in the first place. Examples of this include a dedicated feedback form that is easy to find on the webpage, or an email address that clearly suggests its purpose, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bad user experience can help you better understand your users. By experiencing their frustrations and pain points, you can develop a deeper sense of empathy for their needs. This can lead to better product design and development that meets their needs more effectively. It is highly recommended that everyone on the team uses and plays with the product to get a feel for it and become *the user*, even if they may not fall into any particular user Persona segment.
Empathy without experience is called sympathy ("I know how you feel" as opposed to "I can imagine how you feel"), which can lead to highly hypothetical ideas and outcomes based on hunches.
A bad user experience can often be an opportunity to innovate and grow. When faced with user frustrations, it is important to keep an open mind and view the situation as a learning opportunity. Rather than simply addressing the issue at hand, take the time to analyse the root cause of the problem and consider all possible solutions.
The 5 Whys is one research technique which drills down to the main cause of the user behaviour and intent. Then, gather and prioritise the solutions based on effort required to implement them. This level of creativity and problem solving can lead to new, innovative features, products, or services that not only address the initial issue, but also provide added value to users.
Believe it or not, a bad user experience can actually increase brand loyalty. When a customer has a problem and you solve it quickly and effectively, they are more likely to become loyal customers. This is because they appreciate the effort you put in to make things right.
When Adobe released the beta version of its design application 'XD' in 2016, it openly solicited feature suggestions from users during the beta phase. This was done through forums and within the app itself. Users could vote on feature ideas, and if the idea made it to the next month's release, they would be notified by email. This approach turns users into product designers, kind of. By involving users in the ideation, refinement, and release of their product, Adobe builds strong user loyalty and preference for their product over (cheaper) competitors.
If your competitors are providing a bad user experience, you have an opportunity to capitalise on that. Similar to the benefit of Opportunity for Innovation by providing a better user experience, you can differentiate yourself from the competition and gain a competitive advantage. The difference may only be slight, such as clearly displaying the opening times on your website—so the user can know if your coffee shop is actually open on a bank holiday—it might be just enough information they need to make an informed decision. Small difference, big (ish) results.
A bad user experience can lead to cost savings. By identifying problem areas, prioritising and fixing them, you can reduce the number of customer support requests and complaints. And it doesn’t always have to be specifically customer-orientated either. An example of this would be from a hair salon;
“…We get a lot of calls from customers asking when we can book them in for their next haircut. We spend a lot of time checking the diary and offering available times to the customer, which they think about and ask if there is another time available in the week. We’re just glorified page turners! This takes us away from what we really should be doing…”.
A solution to this could be an online self-service booking system, that the customer could use whenever it suited them. Even if the salon was closed. The ability to let the user pay online frees up the hairdressers time to do what they do best; cut hair. In this example, the experience overlaps both customer and business (hairdresser) and is touches on the internal business operations experience. This is just one example of can help businesses save money on support costs and improve your bottom line.
User testing is an essential part of the user experience design process. It helps to identify usability issues with a product or service before it is released to the wider world. The goal of user testing is to prove that the product or service is usable, intuitive, and meets the needs of the target audience. If the test results show that users cannot complete a task, it provides an opportunity to make improvements to the product and iron out any issues in the flow.
These bad user experiences can also lead to more accurate user testing. When users become frustrated with a product or service, they are more likely to behave naturally during testing. They won't hold back their frustrations or try to "game" the system to achieve a desired outcome. This natural behavior can lead to more accurate and reliable data that can be used to improve the user experience.
During user testing, it is important to ask open-ended questions that allow users to provide detailed feedback. Questions like "What did you like best about the product?" or "What frustrated you the most?" can provide valuable insights into the user experience.
It is also important to observe users during testing. Watch their behavior and pay attention to areas where they struggle or become frustrated. This can help identify areas of the product or service that need to be improved.
A bad user experience can be an opportunity for growth. By learning from mistakes and making improvements, you can grow as a business and as a team. Although I am a UX researcher and designer by trade, I believe the user experience is everyone’s job. It shouldn’t take a specific job title or role for someone to spot and report a link that leads to nowhere or a form button that won’t send. Inviting everyone within the company to participate in ideas for improvement, no matter how small they seem leads to a greater sense of product ownership and overall morale. This can lead to better performance and more success in the long run.
Ultimately, consistent bad user experiences will lead to poor customer satisfaction scores (CSAT). Actually, to complete dissatisfaction. Which will almost certainly lead to users turning to Twitter to vent to their social network or leave negative reviews on Google Reviews, Trustpilot and others. However, by allowing the customer to speak, identifying and addressing problem areas, you can create a better overall user experience. This can lead to happier customers and increased loyalty as well a positive brand perception. And actually, those negative reviews serve as milestones of product development.
Although we all aim for the best possible user experience, a negative experience can offer unexpected benefits. And, as a user experience researcher and designer—I need to know and understand the bad experiences to provide solutions for improvement as well as value and benefit to my clients. By embracing these benefits, we can learn from our mistakes, improve our products and services, and ultimately create a better experience for our users.
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