Immediate vs long-term UX

Hey guys,

Wondering your thoughts on the trade-off between immediate understanding vs long term ease of use. Any examples that come to mind that illustrate the advantages of one over the other?

I’m thinking about the door of my new car. For me, it has great long-term UX, but it’s not great immediately. You walk up to it and touch the handle and it unlocks if your keys are within a certain distance. I love the experience of it, but it totally confused my mom who expected a keyhole. I’m curious if she would like it after spending more time with it.

My initial feeling is that long-term UX feels more futuristic, but blocks adoption (if someone tries your product and it takes some explaining, it creates a barrier to purchasing).

I’m sure that the answer in general is “both” (my key fob has an unlock button for example, which has become an accepted method after combining it with the analog key), but I’m curious where and how you would make the trade-off if necessary.

The answer is you do testing and find out which one is most acceptable to your target market.

For example, if your Tesla has a magic pop out handle and auto door close - it’s completely acceptable when your average buyer is probably a 25-40 year old Silicon Valley tech employee.

If you were designing the next Buick LaOld - that wouldn’t be the case if your target demographic is a 65 year old baby boomer.

Universal design obviously tries to incorporate both - thats where you get the “just pull the handle to open it” type door handles that you describe. As long as you have the key, it is easily explained. Locking on the other hand is a bit trickier, but most cars still provide a key hole and lock button as additional means.

I think you can also make a roadmap to get to that more longterm UX.

Continuing on the key fob example. My last car had a vestigial spot in the IP to put the key and a key hole on the door. That was a 2013 model. My new car, same brand, no key hole, no vestigial spot on the IP for the key, just touch the door handle to unlock, no need to even touch the fob… perhaps the next fob will have no buttons? I’m sure they made a roadmap to describe this evolution.

In the case of the cars, I think they aren’t thinking UX as much as impressing a buyer in the dealer. In many ways, cars have converged. They are all fairly reliable, economical, comfortable, quiet, etc. The real buying decision comes down to brand feeling and gadgets. Plus, it’s alot easier to show someone at the dealer how the doors unlock than it is to explain the advantages of composite variable intake manifold lengths.

In other fields, it really depends on how the product is used and the target market. Is it a device used 100x a day or 1 time a month? Casual user or power user? Is it bought or rented? That stuff will make it apparent which approach is best.

If you want to dig into a UX nightmare, check out any AV receiver at Best Buy. I use these everyday at work, probably a half dozen models. all of them are over complicated from a UX perspective.

Composition and complexity of the tasks a user performs has a lot to do with how much learning is necessary - long or short term. For instance, your car door would seem relatively easy to approach versus the door on a military bunker.

Thing is, the way you as a designer prioritize the tasks also has a lot to do with user learning. In the case of your car door, the functions could be the same but organized differently. Was your Mom confused because she expected a key or because she didn’t know the door had been unlocked? How could you indicate to her that the door was unlocked without her needing to fumble looking for a key? This was the missed design opportunity.

In ID and most visual design schools, they teach a deceivingly simple concept: composition. It’s not just visual and applies to information UX as well. What reads first, second and third? In the case of an auto-unlocking car door, it’s not the act of unlocking the door that reads first.

Having said that, it comes as absolutely no shock that car companies don’t pay enough attention to UX. That’s another discussion for sure…


Thanks guys!

This brings up a few further points I think:

How do you approach “long-term” user testing? Is a week long enough for most products? I know from the C77 conference that Tesla does next to no user research, but I don’t think BMW wants an unreleased car out in public so someone can live with it for a week. Perhaps this is where my car analogy ends, as they’re definitely slower to innovate than consumer electronics.

Yo, do you have a picture of the vestigial spot? Sounds interesting. A roadmap is a great idea too, and that overlap from keys to fobs and fobs to handle contact definitely helped I think. I’m curious if anyone remembers any other attempts at the transition away from keys other than fobs. I know a lot of manufacturers are doing touch handles now, but in pretty different ways.

Price point and the associated sales method was something I hadn’t thought of before too. I wonder how that will affect more expensive objects going forward as more purchasing moves online.

Dan, I think the biggest issue with the car door was the lag. I explained it ahead of time unfortunately, it would have been a great exercise in discoverability though she likely would have been more frustrated. However, there is a quarter second delay between touching the handle and it unlocking. As a result, if you pull right away it tries to unlock as you pull, which means the door doesn’t open and it doesn’t unlock. It catches me sometimes too.

Doors are a nice example.
If we think with the user experience at the center, our language changes and we start to describe dynamics, interactions and qualities before going into how things work. There will always be room for buttons, switches, and keys which we could say are more staccato interactions, then in other cases we will be going toward more fluid interactions with automatic and intelligent behavior. Standardized interactions work, until something changes and people have to rewire their mental map of the system. But there are ways to change interactions while keeping them intuitive, with good and intuitive feedback and feedforward from the system. You start to design in terms of movement and all details have to fit. It is most important that the interaction fits the situation, the intended user, employing all of his skills and giving him an experience that fits him/her. With intelligent systems things can become very open, playful and explorative, and why not?

We are quickly moving into a, “Wait for it” kind of world. Whether it is a fail video or a car door unlocking experience. Technology appears to be introducing the new idea and then design tries to blend it with our memories of something similar (i.e. metaphor). Latency is indeed a pressing issue in UXD.

Machine learning is an area to investigate further for the future. A door handle that understands if you are carrying a full load of groceries or need to escape from a guy following you in the night seems to be the next step.

Why can’t the door unlock and pop open slightly ajar as you approach it? Seems to solve quite a few issues of both near term and long term UX.