Tech analyst Benedict Evans made the following observation in a recent post on his blog:
If you go to the app store and look at the reviews for TripAdvisor, you’ll see not reviews of the app, but reviews of hotels and restaurants. Tens of thousands of them.
Back in 2010, ReadWrite wrote a small piece about Facebook’s login, and this somehow made its way onto the first page of Google search results for ‘Facebook login’. And it had hundreds of comments from people saying ‘I don’t understand – how do I login in?’. They’d clicked on the link, arrived on ReadWrite, and thought they were on Facebook.
On one level, these kinds of stories remind me of the old joke that you can drive a car perfectly well if you think it’s powered by little horses somewhere inside. Once control and operation have been abstracted enough that you don’t have to crank a starter handle or feed a punch card into a slot, you don’t need to know exactly how every layer of the stack works, at least to some degree – you have to understand wheels, but not internal combustion. But sometimes you get artefacts – sometimes the gap in understanding shows through.
As we design user experiences for our customers online we need to keep in mind the fact that our mental models of how things work might be dramatically different to those of other visitors. The same graphics, navigation and design elements can mean radically different things to different people.
Sometimes it’s important to look at the work we produce with a fresh pair of eyes, and try and spot those potential gaps in understanding.