If your customers cannot use your app, site or other software system, they’ll perceive it to be broken. Whether it’s a technical malfunction, or due to more subtle problems with its design, it will cause users to make a negative judgement about your company.
Not only does this risk driving away existing customers, you could also be failing to engage new ones, losing their trust before the relationship even begins.
What do we mean by broken?
That something is “broken” can be a straightforward fact (the product is non-functional), but often it’s a matter of perception when poor user experience is involved (it is functional, but people can’t work out how to use it).
Broken functionality is easy to identify. It means some or all of the software doesn’t work. Have you got missing icons? Buttons that go nowhere? A popup obscuring your content? Settings not updating? Does it fail to load at all? Issues like these mean your software is broken on a functional level and needs to be fixed.
There are many levels of severity, from critical to minor. The important thing to keep in mind is that your users should inform the severity you assign to the issue, not your own team. A popup panel in the wrong place might seem like a minor issue to you, but to a user who can’t access the one button that makes the whole system work for them, it’s a critical issue.
Broken user experience
A broken user experience is much harder to spot. It means people have difficulty knowing how to use your software. Perhaps they can’t find a feature they are looking for, or they’re unsure where to click in the menu? Do they struggle to know what’s a button and what isn’t? Are there confusing instructions? Misleading labels? Is it unclear what a user should do? These types of problems mean people can’t use your app - the software is broken on a user experience level, and needs to be fixed just as urgently.
These issues are often the result of a poor layout or structure, an outdated design which doesn’t take into account modern usability best practices, or a failure to conduct user-centric feature development with user testing and feedback. Since you are used to your own software, you may never notice that there’s a problem until the complaints start rolling in, or worse still, your customers simply leave and look elsewhere.
Broken functionality is easy to fix
Broken functionality is easy to fix; at least, it’s easy in the sense that it is easy to identify. Once a broken part is identified, a solution can be found, and the problem fixed.
The trickier part is in the prioritisation of issues, and knowing which to tackle first. For this, you must listen to your users. Often it’s the ones who shout the loudest who see their problems resolved most quickly, but if a high volume of users are reporting the same thing (even if it seems minor), that could be a better place to start. Try to keep a perspective on the bigger picture to help see what will bring the greatest benefits overall.
A broken user experience is harder to fix
Broken user experience is harder to fix, simply because it’s harder to measure. Usability issues are a bigger problem for new users who haven’t yet invested in your platform in any way. If it doesn't work for them, they will simply go find something else that does, and are unlikely to report any problems to you. Longer term customers may be more likely to report problems, but may be more accustomed to the software and less likely to have the same level of difficulty.
For this reason, it’s worth undertaking regular user reviews to ensure your software delivers the best possible experience.
- Holding focus groups, inviting people from your primary demographic to come in, use your software and give you feedback;
- Installing analytics or a tool such as HotJar to see what your users are doing, and to help identify any issues;
- Inviting members of other teams to conduct code reviews and give additional technical feedback;
- Employing a user experience specialist to review, audit and suggest improvements to your platform based on the current industry best practices.
Do you want some expert help identifying or fixing problem areas in your software or website’s functionality or user experience? Contact us to carry out a usability audit, with recommendations just for you.