The examples are many: applications that are created based on business experts’ rather than end users’ preferences (after saying “I know my users very well”), a marketing department that imposes constraints on the application, having an inherited interface, and the very habits acquired by designers in previous projects…
Creating a UI often runs up against the so-called “experience biases.” This is acquired knowledge that unintentionally influences the way designers decide and build interfaces.
Experience biases should not be confused with cognitive biases. The latter is based on the existence of stereotypes or the assumptions that everyone thinks as you do. In this category, we can include confirmation biases (i.e., using data that confirm the developer’s existing hypotheses or beliefs and discarding those that are not in line with them), the sunk cost fallacy (i.e., refusing to abandon an idea or a project in which we invested a lot of time or effort) or the illusion of transparency (i.e., assuming that others know what we are talking about), to name just a few examples.
Better safe than sorry
Problems may arise when a business strategy or commercial interests constrain leaders at the time of discovery and requirement-setting and when diversity or end users’ specific needs are not factored in. The problem may also result from the designer having homogenized certain development patterns and repeating them in each project without considering the elements inherent to each one.
To prevent experiencing biases, it is essential to challenge and rethink the development process entirely. It is imperative to analyze if the content makes sense to the user, if the language used is clear, if the interface built is accessible to the potential universe of users, if its use requires special learning or whether it is genuinely intuitive, and whether users have access to everything they need to perform their task.
Any content, interface, or code element that leverages a previous version or tool must also be reviewed to avoid bias.
Diversity and digital equity
But this is only the beginning: some mechanisms must be taken into account along the development process of the application to ensure that the end product is free from experience biases.
Diverse design and development teams make it possible to create experiences based on different beliefs, backgrounds, and skills. The more varied and collaborative the team is, the more likely it is that experience biases will be detected early.
On the client´s side, meanwhile, it is necessary to reinforce the concept of “digital equity.” Beyond business objectives, each department should be able to define and prioritize its different users to create appropriate experiences.
In this sense, a forward-looking trend promotes replacing the single design (which generally accommodates essential users or is guided by business leaders, so it already includes all the biases) with multiple versions of the same experience.
The importance of testing
Another critical tool for identifying and eliminating experience biases is testing: redefining
tests and broadening the range of users involved produces essential feedback for making adjustments and improvements. Conversely, narrow testing may reinforce experience biases that have seeped into the development process.
Why is it essential to detect and minimize the impact of experience biases in UI development? Because these biases have costs: they can potentially decrease user engagement and, as a consequence, user productivity and even generate a push-out effect that could lead to the abandonment of the tool.
In contrast, the more diverse, inclusive, and equitable the UI is, the greater the loyalty, trust, and willingness to use it.