Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the WaPo Labs blog on May 4, 2012. For more posts on the design and analysis of user experience, check out all of our UX Principle features.
Every few weeks or so, our resident user experience guru, Michael Ferguson, sends out a short email to the Labs team that discusses an idea or theme relevant to user experience (UX), and explains how UX practitioners take these ideas into account when designing and analyzing the user experience.
We thought our blog readers might be as interested in learning about the thought process that influences the design of user experience as we are, and will be sharing Michael’s notes with you in a recurring feature called “UX Principles.”
So, without further ado, we present this week’s UX Principle theme: Forgiveness.
A user shouldn’t be able to get into a situation that’s not easy to recover from. People make mistakes: they click on something they didn’t mean to, misunderstand what a button does, forget a step, enter a typo. The system should anticipate this and allow an obvious path back to a desired state.
At worst, a user can end up losing data or having to start a process over (ever fill out a form and submit it, then hit the back button to correct something and the whole thing’s cleared?).
How does the principle of forgiveness influence our products? To give just one example: the Social Reader Facebook app allows you to quickly “unread” an article if you don’t want to share it: it tells each user how to do that on their first visit and provides access to the control in a consistent, logical place with each article. This way, even an occasional user has a ready path to be reminded of the feature and can easily choose to read an article privately:
A common place you experience forgiveness is with search engine spell check. Google used to forgive misspellings by offering the correction via a “Did you mean _____?” link. Now, when they are confident you’ve misspelled a word, they present the “correct” results and (in an act of forgiveness) allow you to override their assumption with “Search instead for:”
I hope you have found this brief introduction to one principle of user experience helpful. Stay tuned for more UX tricks of the trade in next week’s post!