Tuesday, January 13, 2015

User Interfaces for Users

Summary: When designing a user interface, think about the user, and what they want to know. Don't just present the information you know.

As part of my job I've ended up writing a fair amount of user interface code, and feedback from users has given me an appreciation of some common mistakes. Many user interfaces are designed to present information, and one of the key rules is to think about what the user wants to see, not just showing the information you have easily to hand. I was reminded of this rule when I was expecting a parcel. On the morning of Saturday 10/1/2015 I used a track my parcel interface to find:

The interface presents a lot of information, but most of it is interesting to the delivery company, not to me. I have basically one question: when will my parcel arrive. From the interface I can see:

  • The parcel is being shipped with "Express AM" delivery. No link to what that means. Searching leads me to a page saying that guarantees delivery before 1pm on a business day (some places said noon, some said 1pm). That is useful information if I want to enter into a contract with the delivery service, but not when I'm waiting for a parcel. What happens on Saturday? Do they still deliver, just not guarantee the time? Do they wait until the next business day? Do they do either, as they see fit?
  • My parcel has been loaded onto a vehicle. Has the vehicle has left the depot, or is that a separate step? How many further steps are there between loading and delivery? This question is easy to answer after the parcel has been delivered, since the additional steps show up in the list, but difficult to answer before.

On Saturday morning my best guess about when the parcel would arrive was between then and Monday 1pm. Having been through the complete process, I now know the best answer was between some still unknown time on Monday morning and Monday 1pm. With that information, I'd have taken my son to the park rather than keeping him cooped up indoors.

I suggest the company augment their user interface with the line "Your parcel will be delivered on Monday, between 9am and 1pm". It's information they could have computed easily, and answers my question.

The eagle-eyed may notice that there is a plus to expand to show more information. Alas, all that shows is:

I think they're trying to say my puny iPhone can't cope with the bold font that is essential to tell me the status and I should get an iPhone plus... Checking the desktop website also showed no further information.


Anonymous said...

The Domino's UI might be what you're looking for:


Neil Mitchell said...

I've used the Domino's UI before, and the information displayed is good. Last time I ran through was just after it had changed styling significantly, and there were lots of bugs (I had two countdowns, one of which went negative) - I assume those will have been fixed by now.

Sam Ficek said...

Hi Neil

I work in the digital team at Parcelforce Worldwide, and would like to thank you for your feedback on the UI of our mobile tracking app.

We are currently working with our IT colleagues to improve the mobile site, and will be making changes over the coming months.

In the meantime, I shall review the product, and tracking advice pages, to see if there's any improvements we can make straight away (like specifying what happens with an Express AM delivery at weekends!)

Thanks again for your feedback,


Neil Mitchell said...

Hi Sam - great news. I appreciate you taking the time to make some improvements.