Design and the 'Human Error'

In spite of interacting with digital products in our day to day lives, we still tend to make mistakes. Is it 'Human Error'? Before reading Don Norman's book, I would have definitely blamed myself, convinced myself that I am not at par with the digital world. But that isn't true. It would be 'bad design' and here's an example justifying why:


Recently my friend and I were settling our money transactions with each other. While doing so my friend was using the applications like Splitwise (to keep a tab of her expenses, money owed and borrowed) and Squarecash (Popularly known as the Cash app, used to send and receive money instantly). She owed 40 $ to one of her friends. Hence she decided to use the Cash app to send that money. While doing so I observed her coming across a few errors that could have been avoided, had the apps been tested for a 'Sensibility check'.

While typing in the amount in square cash, you have no option of manually using the '.' sign. For example: if you owe 40.05 dollars, you need to keep typing till it automatically does it for you. On the contrary, Splitwise gives you an option of manually using the decimal sign and putting in the amount you owe, for your record. Hence, while shifting from one application to another, she encountered an issue (as she was accustomed to splitwise) while typing the money in and thus spent several minutes figuring out how to let the application automatically reach the decimal amount. She typed 40005 together and it came out as 400 $! Which was way ahead of what she actually owed.


Furthermore, after finally managing to enter the correct amount, she had to select the contact that she wished to share that amount with. In Cash app, every user is expected to have a personalized user id starting with the '$' sign. But what it does not do is delete your account after you have deleted the app/ removed your credit card. She sent the 40$ to her friend after seeing his name with the '$' sign, thus automatically assuming that he uses the app and would receive the money. Unfortunately, he did not have that app anymore and was not using the Credit card that he had linked to that Cash app. As the action of sending money was still in the pending list, it could not be canceled for some reason.

Thus, the 40 dollars, unfortunately; went down the drain.

With reference to what Norman says in the book, before designing for people performing a particular task, understand the nature of that task being performed; design for the people performing the task and not the product/device it is being performed on. And I completely agree cause it perfectly fits this scenario. If only the app was tested for these issues beforehand, these errors could have been avoided.

It wasn't a mistake that happened while performing this task, it was a slip- with no fault of her own.

To have empathy in design is to not be judgemental but open minded. As Ux designers, it is our duty to enter into the user's shoes and understand what exactly do they need, what are their pains and problems are and how can we solve them. It is the yoUSERS we are designing for and the only question we always need to ask is What do YOU need?

With all the day to day experiences and examples mentioned in the book, I have started to understand that the most important thing for a UXer is to be empathetic. Listening and observing our users performing tasks would not only help us understand them better but also become better designers and develop better products.

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