Minority Use Case Report

minority-report-010

I’ve been working in UX for about 10 years, first as a freelancer then as a UX designer at digital agencies. I’m now somewhere in Scotland building top secret missile launch systems for the impending Martian invasion of Earth.

During that time I’ve learned a thing or two: don’t get wax in your hair, don’t listen to The Food Babe and never ever build your interface around the minority use case. 

It’s a very easy trap to fall into. At Glasgow Central train station there are ticket machines and there’s a part of the interface where you have to specify your destination. The selection is via a list or a lookup powered by a keyboard. But, and here’s the cool thing, the keyboard is not QWERTY, it’s ABC!

Why?

Maybe they did a stack of user research and realised most folks buying tickets at Glasgow Central train station have never used a keyboard and would find using QWERTY much harder than an ABC layout.

Aye, right. I reckon somewhere along the line someone thought “hmmm, some folks can’t use a keyboard; shouldn’t we make sure the layout is familiar to everyone?”.

Leaving aside the issue of whether or not an ABC pattern is more learnable and usable for a few keyboard illiterate users -hint, it isn’t – how many more travellers have to endure fiddly and unfamiliar interfaces now? Yes, you want to make sure everyone can use the system, but why make it harder for the majority?

And this is a trap I see teams fall into time and time again. Designing for minority, exceptional, weird ‘what if?’ use cases.

Ring any bells? Would love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter.

Photograph: Allstar/20th Century Fox/Sportsphoto Ltd.

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