Perfect UX is impossible

Updated. And filed under #ux

This will be a short one. Promise.

I sometimes rant about ux. You can find some written ones here, and I hope to add more because there's a lot to cover IMO.

That said, I think UX is harder than one might expect:

I just simplified the whole application!

Fine, this will be great for onboarding new users but you just made it a lot harder to use for all existing users.

In the public transport app we now use two minutes between the arrival of one and the departure of next transport. This way we will stop suggesting useless alternatives where you won't catch the second leg!

Fine, but what about disabled people, and what if the first is delayed?

We have now increased it to 12 minutes to cover this. We have calculated that this should solve the problem in 98% of the cases.

Fine, but now most people will get a sub optimal schedule most of the time.


I could go on and on, but I think you get the point: whether your technical solution is good depends on who your users are, if they have previous experience with your application, if they have any disabilities and I'd even say it depends on if the users choice of transport is delayed or not.

All this before we have even start talking about preferences...!

When I work in the field I see quite a lot of statements thrown around, and I have certainly been guilty myself as well (although these are not mine):

vim is the perfect tool for programming

Ask certain kinds of Vim user though and you'll be told in no uncertain terms that Vims ux is close to perfect once you have remapped CAPS LOCK to escape.

On the other hand I know Vim well enough to know it is not perfect for me (although I'll miss it if it isn't installed.)

Mac has better ux than Windows

If you ask the typical Mac user they will typically say that Mac has better ux than Windows and Linux. They'll also give a number of reasonable reasons for it.

Based on this I was enthusiastic when I got my first Mac. I then tried for three years, honestly. And since I have adapted to everything else IT has thrown at me from DOS and Windows 3.1 to the latest Windows 10, from Red Hat 7.1 with Gnome to ICEWM, Elementary, Gnome 2 and 3, KDE in various versions, plain bash over ssh, the fact that I just couldn't get used to it was a huge disappointment, and at first I blamed it on Mac enthusiasts.

Later I realized that for a good number of Mac users it isn't just about shiny – it is the ux of their dreams, just like KDE is my dream UX.

Others might disagree, and I support them! But Mac isn't better for everyone. It is different, and some people like it a lot, but the rest of us aren't stupid for not liking it.

I could add more examples here, but I promised to myself to be short, and also at this point I think I have proven my headline: Creating the perfect UX is impossible because the perfect UX is different between user groups and even between users.

With this giant hint to both myself and my readers about one idea I'll probably present as a possible solution, I'll leave this here and try to get back at some later point with some more practical advice on what can be done.