Yesterday while commuting to the office, I stumbled into a bunch of Potholes on the road. Nothing new, unfortunately. It’s a common sight across most roads in the city. As I drove further ahead on the same road, I came across a few so-called “Repaired Potholes”. Yeah, you pictured it right. The hasty, poorly done “Patchwork”. Ugh, I began to crib about how patching up the potholes is the worst way to fix them, and it makes the roads uneven, and it wears out, and it is shabby, and blah blah blah…
This got me thinking, about a strange parallel between the state of our roads and the world of digital products. Do we as Product Designers/ Product Managers often fix such potholes (gaps) in our products by mere patchwork?
Just for an Example: The Tooltips that appear on click/hover of the “i” or “?” icon. When Designers or PMs notice a usability issue, where their users are not understanding what to do next or are dropping off, they naturally tend to think of a quick & temporary fix to the issue by adding a humble little tooltip with a long paragraph explaining what to do. In my opinion, This is digital Patchwork.
It’s okay as long as it is a temporary solution until you address the underlying usability issue and eventually find a permanent solution. But the problem arises when this temporary Patch-work remains in there for too long if not forever. Hey! The users shouldn’t need to find & open a tooltip in order to complete their task!
Now, finding a permanent solution is not gonna be easy. Just like properly Re-constructing the entire road again, your product may require a complete Design-revamp involving solid user research to identify the root cause of the problem. This will require time, effort and resources. But sometimes, the cost of not doing it is way too high. Just like too many patched-up potholes make the city roads bumpy and unsafe to commute, too many quick fixes in the product increase friction and can make your product frustrating to use, leading to decreased engagement and adoption.
By prioritising permanent solutions over band-aid fixes, Designers & PMs can ensure that their product provides a reliable and satisfying experience for users over the long term. This, in turn, can lead to increased user satisfaction, loyalty, and brand reputation, ultimately driving business success.
So next time you stumble into a pothole on your way to work, take a moment to think about how you want to fix such potholes that may exist in your product.
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