Before the Screen Loads

We’d been on the conference call for a little over fifteen minutes talking with the client about the early results of usability testing on an application for reviewing the results of a DNA test.

We were seeing reactions of “too many screens,” and too much medical jargon that wasn’t explained. Test participants were getting lost and felt underwhelmed. Eventually, they would all find the right information, but the usability test results didn’t feel like a success in terms of the design proving helpful.

But that wasn’t the part that was bothering me. “What happens when the person gets the email about their results being available,” I asked.

I got an immediate reply: “Well, they click on the button that says See Results and…”

I interrupted, politely of course, “No, I mean, what happens to the person when they get the email?”

I proposed a theory (a theory only because it wasn’t in the scope of testing): People have many reasons to want to do a DNA test. For many, the thought of doing DNA testing is novel and fun. People request a kit, it arrives, they spit and swab, and send it back. And then, because DNA testing isn’t as fast as it is on TV, they wait a couple of weeks.

During that time, most people aren’t thinking, “I wonder when my results will come back.” They’re getting on with their busy lives. When the results email arrives, it may be a moment of excitement and it may be a moment of intense anxiety; the DNA test description promises to identify (or rule out) a handful of genetic disorders.

It went quiet for a long few seconds on the conference call when I explained that. Their team’s focus on getting the screens right meant they weren’t thinking about the the entire flow. Granted, the scope of the test hadn’t included that aspect, but the silence showed it wasn’t even being thought about.

That isn’t to say at all that they don’t care. This was a large, complex project. But it’s also something that needs to be done correctly from the moment the app is launched. That’s why when people come to us, we look at the broader view, beyond the initial request of, for example, “help us fix our app.”

If the product or service you provide could potentially induce anxiety or stress in the people who use it, you need to be thinking about what’s happening before the screen loads.

Even if you aren’t making something that could create anxiety or stress, you cannot count on your users being stress-free when they are engaging with you. How you plan for that and how you handle that is well worth considering as the launch or first-time-use of any product or service is always a make or break moment.