UX Mistakes that Cost Dollars and Lives

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ux mistakes

You plan for a new product and many hours and dollars are put in. You are quite proud of the finished product. You execute your product and it flops. “It made sense in my head,” you quizzically say to yourself. We have all had those but-it-made-sense-in-my-head moments. At a smaller scale, it may be a bit funny. But when you’re a larger company, the flop can cost millions. User experience (UX) and usability testing are essential for mitigating the risk of these blunders.

Here are four costly but-it-made-sense-in-my-head moments experienced by companies:

1. Walmart

Walmart’s 1.85 billion dollar blunder is well-known in the UX industry. Based on surveys to consumers, Walmart reorganized its stores to reduce clutter. The result? Walmart’s sales plummeted by $1.85 million dollars. Walmart’s mistake was that it made these decisions based on consumer surveys instead of observing consumer behavior. The questions were also leading which already primes the surveyed to answer the question in a certain way. While surveys and self-reporting methods of analyzing consumers are a good way to begin examining user experience, self-reported data is known to be one of the least reliable methods of gathering data and is only one of many factors to consider.

2. McDonald’s

McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants revamped their menus to include healthier options such as healthy smoothies and gourmet sandwiches based on millennial self-reporting of food preferences. But these changes did not bring more millennial customers. These efforts flopped as it turns out millennials still prioritize value and convenience. McDonald’s could have saved significant time and expense by investing in real user research before investing in these menu changes which would help them cater to what millennials really want.

3. The Medical Industry

According to a recent study, physicians spend about half their time doing paperwork. This is not only inefficient use of physicians’ time and training, patients’ time is also being wasted. Of the reasons cited for this colossal waste of time, two involve usability / UX principles. Namely, the medical forms and software are not user-friendly and information workflows are extremely inefficient. Additionally, the current design of medical software often make it prohibitively difficult to navigateresulting in critical information being missed and patients being seriously injured or dying.

4. Fiat Chrysler

As if losing millions is not bad enough, people have almost literally been killed because of some pretty bad made-sense-in-my-head moments. In 2016, Fiat Chrysler had to recall more than 1.1 million cars due to its confusing gear shift. Drivers were confused by Chrysler’s gear shift indications resulting in some roll-away incidents which may have led to some serious injuries.

The takeaways from the above examples are many but we can highlight a few:

  • Do not rely on self-reported data. People not only lie on surveys but often unknowingly lie to themselves. It is critical to understand and leverage other more reliable methods for building user requirements and preferences.
  • Run a “dress rehearsal” with usability testing. Whenever possible, to best account for environmental variables, make sure that the testing is conducted in the users’ natural environments in order to account for all possible real-world influences.
  • And be careful to not assume that just because it makes sense in your head, it’ll make sense in someone else’s.
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Abdul Suleiman
Abdul SuleimanChief Experience Officer
Abdul Suleiman

Abdul has helped over 40 Fortune 500 companies make informed user-centered design decisions through evidence-based user research and UX best practices. As an Adjunct Professor, Abdul has taught in DePaul University’s graduate UX programs and for nine other universities.

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