Leaner user journeys and design are a transition not a jump

Technology is making the user journey leaner but design changes have to be transitional not a jump, you can't expect users to learn or drop an action because the technology allows us to do something new. An example of this is auto save.

We’re well into the app and web app age, and new technologies and design paradigms can create more usable ways of doing things, improving or removing the potential for human error or computers crashing. It’s great to see but we need to remember not just to blindly copy these ideas, we need to understand them and how it effects the user experience. I’m not saying there’s lots of senseless people out there but sometimes we don’t have time to consider things fully, it just becomes a task to complete. We need to consider things if we are to ensure a quality result. We are all responsible for the user experience, it’s a collaborative, diligent process and it’s the same for true innovation.

Auto save as an example

A great example of what I am talking about is auto save. It’s something we’re starting to expect but it’s a little way off being ubiquitous. That’s the problem there’s an inconsistency on sites and app and users haven’t caught up yet. We’re still reaching for the save button at times.

I was using a ‘todo’ app today and as I was adding a task by pressing a plus button. When I got to the next screen I made my setting changes and then thought – ‘ok, save that’. ‘Oh, wait, no save button’. In that short time I expected to see a little overlay saying ‘saved’ or an icon but there was nothing. The only button on screen was the back button, generally a reversal of actions button. So, for a second or two (a lot in cognitive terms) I’m thinking, – ‘will I loose everything or has it saved’? I’m an expert user thinking that, I should not have to break my flow to consider it.

You might think, ‘oh god why did you write about this little thing’ but it’s a good example and reminder that users need to know what’s happening. It’s part of the core experience that we need to give users feedback.

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time. – Jacob Nielsen

You could argue users will get used to it, well that’s a subject point really, maybe if I use a site every day yes but I have tens of apps and I visit many sites. I can’t remember each user flow. The argument here is for consistency as Donald Norman can testify to, especially if you’ve not made the actions visible.


Subtle examples showing auto save notifications.

Subtle examples of showing auto save.

A good example of none intrusive feedback. Where the Android home screen shows a saved message overlay.

A good example of non intrusive feedback on my Android.

One day auto save will be ubiquitous then maybe we won’t need a little notification but there’s a trend of going a step too far just in the quest for simple, clean design. Simple and clean is difficult and this is just one example why. I’m all for clean, I’m all for removing tasks from the user that the computer can do but we need to think hard about it, take the idea but do the thinking, not just copy and paste.

This jumping will apply to other things as technology moves on, as it does now. Tech move so quickly and we can be forgiven for thinking things are a jump but they’re not, they’re a transition, some will develop quicker than others but much of the principles will remain the same and they were learnt long ago. Challenge conventions but only when you’re sure it’s an improvement.

Dribbble auto save example – Stephanie Mikuls
Wordpress example – WordPress

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