How UX Is Like Riding a Bike

Posted By Andres Bohorquez In UX & Design 06/9/2014
Tom Olesnevich | nyc by bike

As I approach my 30’s, I am trying to integrate new habits into my life. Luckily I live in NYC, and new habits are in abundance here. One of the newest habits I have picked up is biking to work on a regular basis, which has now become my main method of transportation around the city.

Benefits of biking? I get to work 15 minutes faster, avoid the overly cramped subways, and enjoy the city scenery while feeling the rush of wind on my face. There is something exhilarating about having free range to zip around the city. Absolute bliss.

In the beginning, I was completely focused while riding. I had to be. I was dealing with a lot of new variables I hadn’t thought about nor experienced before; like wandering pedestrians or unexpected car doors opening.

At this point, you are probably wondering, what does biking have to do with User Experience? Much like the city biking traffic system, an effective website is designed to effectively communicate with its users. It has to be extremely quick and incredibly efficient.

Here are some directions to follow when considering UX for your website. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Best Practices  First Time User Experience
When I was young, I learned basic traffic rules from my parents, such as crossing the street. I knew to look both ways, and to pay attention to the big red (or green) lights. As a first time bike rider, my basic traffic knowledge had to expand to survive on the road.

This is very similar to what designers do when considering the first time user experience of a website. We analyze what our core audience already knows and introduce new features with easy to learn experiences.

Consistent Clear Communication
Consistency is key when communicating to users. Through my biking experiences,  I have become familiar with riding down the West Side pathway. This familiarity allows me to successfully understand and navigate the maze of traffic lights, road signs, and directional indicators that litter my journey and allow me to successfully arrive at my destination.

Similarly, when a user visits your website, information needs to be provided in a clear and helpful way. It should be presented in a familiar fashion to teach users what to expect at every turn. Navigating through a website becomes much safer and comfortable if users are confident that what you promise is what they will get at the end of their journey.

For example: James is buying a book online and he is shown an offer to get a 20% discount only applicable if he buys 2 books. James gets excited and says yes! This means he will spend more money than what he initially intended to receive the promo. James completes checkout, but the final bill does not have a discount applied. Now, James is upset and confused. He just spent way more money than he would have otherwise and did not get the promised discount. James is now extremely unhappy, as what was a promising experience is now broken, and he’ll have to call customer service (which is a hassle in itself) to sort this out.

As one would expect, customer service informs him that the discount is only applied to future purchases and that they cannot do anything about it.  The end result? The sites reputation is now going down the drain and has the potential to lose more than just James as a customer.

Make it Easy
After I became more familiar with riding, I started to rely on muscle memory. I identified the fastest and safest route to work and I took it day after day. Bike riding became a simple routine I was comfortable with. Instead of focusing on navigating from Point A to Point B, I was able to spend time thinking about other things.

Any good digital interaction should clearly indicate basic rules and encourage users to interact with it. Website intersections should be simple and familiar so users are able to use their “muscle memory” to navigate their way to their destination.

Conclusion
I would encourage you to think of your users as bicycle riders.

Not only help them to successfully navigate from Point A to Point B, but make sure they have a joyful, safe and easy ride along a clearly defined pathway. Even if your users face any difficulty, provide enough instruction to help them make the decision that benefits them the most, making sure their expectations are met.

This will ensure repeated interactions, brand recognition, good reviews, and most importantly, it will encourage brand loyalty. Like a bike rider, users will always choose the path (brand) that has been clearly defined and has an enjoyable ride (experience).


*Andres Bohorquez is an experienced UX Designer at DOOR3. Let us know your thoughts on the article by commenting in the section below.

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