UX Focus: #1 Don’t Make Me Think Outlook

Welcome to the first installment of UX Focus where we will discuss all things user experience related. This post is focused on a failed attempt at using the “inline help” design pattern.

Microsoft Outlook Issue

I was sending out an email and Outlook conveniently offered a tip alerting me that there was additional information available for the recipient’s of the email I was drafting. This got me excited, I thought to myself “Thank you Outlook how helpful. Let me read what this additional information is.” Much to my disappointment I couldn’t access the additional information. I tried hovering and clicking on the text alert with no luck. I thought maybe I could click on the recipients name to get the additional information I was after. Sadly, I could not. I tried everything I could think of and never was able to find the additional information.

At this point I had completely stopped drafting my email and was clicking around and increasingly getting frustrated with the program. How could the program be smart enough to tell me there was additional details yet couldn’t be smart enough to show it to me?

Screenshot shows that more information is available but there is no obvious way to access it.
Screenshot shows that more information is available but there is no obvious way to access it.

Potential Solution

So what should have been done differently? Outlook should have guided me through this experience. They did an excellent job of alerting me that additional information was available but failed to lead me to that information. They made me stop what I was doing and think when I shouldn’t of had to.

Simply make the additional information available to the user without making them break their workflow. Off the top of my head this could be accomplished through a hover state (not so helpful on a touch experience), a link, or simple directions on where to find the information (not ideal but better than nothing). The point is if you tell a user there is additional information but don’t offer up the goods, it’s going to lead to a bad experience.

If you want to build intuitive products that users “just get” don’t make them think. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful book titled “Don’t Make Me Think” authored by Steve Krug in which he covers many areas about not stressing the users cognitive load. It’s a great read and I highly recommend everyone picks up a copy.

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About This Series

UX Focus is a series of blog posts aimed to help educate and discuss User Experience Design and the many disciplines that surround it. The goal is to start a conversation and build an understanding about what UX design is, how it’s leveraged, and show examples of both good and bad user experiences so that we can evolve as product designers and give a greater understanding to the public at large. Check back often as we will work diligently to post more examples as they cross our path.
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About the Author

Danny Johnson is a UX Designer at Celedon Partners with 8 years of industry experience visually designing and building products for clients. He is passionate about discussing all things design and invites you to engage, challenge, and discuss your thoughts or ideas.

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