User experience "papercuts"

by Alistair Gray on 17 June 2009


Canonical is looking to fix 100 minor user experience issues in Ubuntu with it’s One Hundred Paper Cuts initiative. This is particularly heartening to see as a user experience consultant. In testing we find small usability problems all the time, but the larger usability issues will always (and should) take priority. The major issues are solved, the minor issues fall off the ‘to do’ list, there’s just not enough time to solve everything.

But all usability issues (no matter how minor) undermine the user experience. Not sure where that file you downloaded is saved? Can’t seem to be able to get the text to change to that colour you’re asking it to? All these seemingly small problems could be the straw breaking the users back – they’ll think twice before using your application again.

Getting a large chunk of these minor issues out of the way in one go seems to be the most economical method to solve these issues, and the possibility that the process “might be reiterated during future development cycles” implies that those behind it are aware that they are just taking the tip off the iceberg. Minor issues crop up as a matter of course. It’s how you deal with them that shows your attitude to user experience, usability and your users.

For all our previous clients, go and look for an “additional issues” section near the back of your user testing reports – you may find usability papercuts there!

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