User experience, or, up a tree while lost in a forest

I’m a big believer in the curse of knowledge–the idea, as Chip and Dan Heath phrase it, that once we know something, it’s hard to imagine not knowing it.  Consider the way you pronounce “often” — do  you sound the T, or not? — and how bizarre it seemed when you first met someone who pronounces it the other way.

Recently someone asked whether I’d be interested in working on a project as a “user experience strategist.”  I don’t think I have the necessary qualifications, whatever they might be, but I do have a growing collection of items that fall into the intersection of user experience and curse of knowledge.

This, for instance, is a message I encountered while waiting for some online animation to start:

Decimals are our most important product

I actually don’t remember what the animation was about.  I do remember that the entire load took perhaps 25 seconds, a span of time for which ten-thousandths of one percent rarely matter.  Even if the load took 25 minutes, 1% of that time would be 15 seconds.  Two decimal places (0.01%) would be 0.15 seconds.  Close enough.

The next example is from a local government authority in Scotland.  “Council” here means something like the town or county government in the U.S., with responsibility for things like public safety, roads, and schools.  While the page does have a sidebar for “quick links,” what you see in the box below is the entire text for frequently asked questions.

Any questions?

Not only are questions frequently asked, they’re frequently anticipated, which may explain this FAQ example from a long-distance phone service:

There's no question that we can't answer

And as we turn to the last example–I know peeves are often kept as pets, but this one I think has gone feral: I don’t understand why so many websites and blogs fail to include a preview button for comments.

So, in this next example (from an advertising-industry publication), the upper section shows what you see when you want to make a comment.  The lower section shows a result that isn’t all that surprising.

Words fail me.


Behind all of these, I think, is likely someone whose assumption was “people will know what this means” or “this will help them do X.”